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Should You Be Friends with Co-Workers and Employees?

It may be better to be friendly without getting too close

by Ruth Haag  |  11448 views  |  1 comment  |       Rate this now! 

You probably spend as many hours at work as you do awake at home. Thus, you spend as much time with your co-workers as with your family.

It is nice to be able to tell people at work important things that are going on at home. Sometimes it is nice to gain a co-worker's insight about a personal problem. So it is hard to determine where to draw the line with business friendships. Should you be sharing all kinds of intimate details about your home life, or should you keep totally quiet about what goes on away from work?

Sharing too much can make others think less of you. One of my first supervisors had problems with her husband. She began to come in to work late. Then she would sit and tell her assistant all of her problems. As time went on, she did no work, and neither did her assistant. When she decided to move out on her husband, her assistant took the day off and helped. From that point on, her assistant no longer respected her, and no longer worked very hard.

When you are at work, you would like to be judged by the quality of work that you do. If you are a wonderful worker, but share with everyone that you cannot control your home life, they will include that in their estimation of you.

The main goal of work. At home with your family and friends, your main goal may be to socialize. The main reason that people go to work, though, is to work. People sometimes forget that.

How much should you share? Some people believe that others are very interested in all of their problems. Perhaps others show concern, but most likely they don’t really want to be totally involved.

Keeping a distance between your work life and your home life is a good thing. Among the things to keep to yourself are: details of an illness, details of your arguments with your spouse, details of your financial problems, details of your vacation, details of your monthly cycles, details of romantic conquests, involvement with what your child is selling from school.

Here is a list of things you can share: That you were sick and are now well, that you are buying a new house, that you are going on vacation, that you are having problems at home, but not what those problems are.

Supervisors should not socialize with their employees. Imagine a situation in which the supervisor and several of the employees have a weekly poker game. Imagine that it becomes apparent that one of the employees in the poker group is not working effectively, and should be fired. The supervisor has a very hard problem. If she fires the employee, the poker group might fall apart. On the other hand, if she keeps the employee and the weekly game, she will have to do the employee’s work to ensure that it gets done. Supervisors should not socialize with their employees.

About the Author

Ruth Haag ( helps managers and employees understand the dynamics of the work environment, and how to function smoothly within it.

Read more by Ruth Haag

1 comment so far...

  • interesting perspective. maybe men are different? i work with men and in the past have been friends with those who worked under me. i agree that there should not be favoritisim but i was also able to get someone to work HARDER because i knew what they were really capable of and could call them on it. I also know of men in my office that are vaious levels of management/employee that actually play poker together! They all know that work is work and social is social. The two do not influence one another. I think the key here is to know those who you are talking to and that someetimes the line is in different places depending on the person.

    As a general rule i agree with this article, but there are often times it just apply in the 'real world'

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Kate on 19th March 2008