How many times have you transitioned into a new department or started a new job and the current employees flocked to you like a moth to a flame? Or, how many times have you found yourself becoming “new best friends” with a new associate? Well, everyone has at one point in their professional life because humans are relational beings. It is the nature of humans to interact and build relationships. But there is a fine line between “Work Friends” and “Social Friends” and the two lines should almost never become blurred.
Karen, a very welcoming sales assistant at a brokerage firm quickly befriends new employees, sparing no time or expense to delve into the life of the individual (irrespective of their position). Jennifer, a new associate, worked in cashering of the same firm and was greeted warmly each morning by Karen. Karen would inquire about Jennifer’s evening and weekend plans, while sharing her own. She would compliment Jennifer’s attire and ask her to lunch. Jennifer received Karen’s approach as that of a “friend.” Apparent to one of the office managers that Jennifer was Karen’s target, and without compromising her managerial position, the manager had a closed-door conversation with Jennifer. She encouraged Jennifer to familiarize herself with the office’s environment, focus on her job and be selective of whom she allowed into her circle of influence. Jennifer politely acknowledged the “advice” yet the manager knew what was ahead. The conclusion: Karen was a snake waiting to strike and she struck. And Jennifer later found herself returned to the manager’s office in dismay and on the receiving end of a written counseling session.
The above ‘real story’ happens daily and can have devastating, sometimes terminable, consequences. No one is advising to not be friendly at work but realize the difference between “social” and “work” friends. ” Work” friendships have boundaries that should never be crossed: 1) disclosing personal issues, 2) discussing other employees, and 3) disclosing career objectives to one that can’t assist you in climbing the ladder. Yes, attend firm-sponsored events. Yes, have lunch with co-workers. And, by all means, network and build relationships. Just remember the environment in which you operate. Friends are often acquired before you join an organization. If you are seeking to ascend through the ranks or become a staple in your organization, then use a little ‘job sense’ in this area of your work-life. It will take you a long way.