Some people have friends. Others have colleagues. This means that you attend the same meetings with your friends, and after the meeting you grab a fancy dinner and a glass of wine with your colleagues. In the past, the strict line between the social friends and the workplace colleagues was firm, however today the line is becoming blurred. For example, during the Obama administration, several pictures of Barak Obama and Joe Biden grabbing ice cream or iconic Instagram selfie of Joe and Obama were all over the internet. The “bromance” between the ex-president and the ex-vice president clearly shows the change in the trend of personal relationships. Comically, the internet was sad by the end of the Obama administration as what they call “true friendship goals” came to an end. People are more accepting towards calling our colleague friends, and an increasing number of friends are applying for the jobs in the same companies.
Us human beings are social creatures. We are social not just in the trivial sense that we do not want to be alone, and not just in the obvious sense that we depend on each other. We are social in a more fundamental way: we simply exist as a normal human in a way that requires interaction with other people. We are social by nature. We crave and require interaction – this is what makes social wellbeing an integral element of our overall wellbeing. Flip this statement around, and you’ll see that this means we will not be able to thrive and achieve further without social interaction. No matter how old or young, we have friends. Additionally, we spend a significant amount of time at school or at work each week, so it shouldn’t be surprising that developing friendships in the workplace can have a big influence on our wellbeing. It’s a common sight where you grab a quick lunch with your colleagues during your lunch break at work.
It may sound fun to be working with your friends, however workplace friendships have both pros and cons. Pros are more obvious: it can make a job more enjoyable, enhancing your productivity and creativity. Many people get new jobs as a result of friendships, and companies often promote programs that reward employees for referring their friends for employment. However, there is a dark side of everything – too much socializing impedes productivity, personal or professional information can be revealed to inappropriate people, and cliques may form, leading to favoritism, exclusivity and negativity. Friendships you develop at your work places are fundamentally different from other social relationships. A job provides financial security. If forced to choose between keeping the source of income and a friendship, most people would choose to keep their job. Because of the pros and cons of developing friends at work, you have more at stake when deciding whether to enter into a workplace friendship. Sure, the right group of friends can be a great influence in your career and a motivation for you to get up every day, but the wrong group can get you fired.
But it’s always sad to see a friend – or a colleague, the label does not matter anymore – move out. On the opposite end, when a friend retires, finds a new job, or is fired, you feel lonely because you no longer have someone to speak ill about your boss, or somebody to grab lunch with every day. Don’t worry though, you will make a new friend soon. We’re just wired that way.
Only a few would bother to dispute the power that a true friendship has to enrich our lives. And at the same time, it’s true that friends often come last in our priority lists because they are always taken for granted. Just remember, as Martin Luther King Jr. said: “In the end we will not remember the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends”. Let’s give our dear friends a hug today – whether it be your social relationships or your workplace colleagues.