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How Friendly Should Your Office Friendship Be?
By Lydia Ramsey
Sunday, 3rd February 2013
Having good relationships among colleagues is vital to organizational and individual success. 

Friendships among coworkers lead to greater job satisfaction and increased productivity, but they should be kept casual rather than close.  When coworkers become “best” friends, problems can arise and job performance may be affected.

Here are some suggestions for keeping workplace friendships professional and productive.

Follow the “one-year” rule. That is, go slowly in letting the business acquaintance become a friendship.  Allow yourself time in getting to know your coworkers.  First impressions may be lasting, but they are not always the most accurate.

If someone seems overly friendly or inquisitive, be careful. When other people seem overly interested in personal details or business affairs, think twice before you answer all their questions. Revealing too much too soon can make you vulnerable. Once you’ve shared information, you cannot take it back.

Test your new friends with low risk confidences.  If you hear your private comments being repeated to others, the lesson should be clear.  Until you have a strong level of trust, hold back on revealing anything that you don’t want the entire office to know.

Always keep in mind that any kind of gossip should be avoided in the workplace.  That means not spreading personal information about your coworkers or passing along organizational rumors.Small talk in the office is good for relationships as long as the subjects are appropriate.  It is a good idea to steer clear of anything that is personal or speculative.  If the company is talking about cutting costs, that doesn’t mean lost jobs until you hear it from the top.

Be friendly, be kind, be courteous, but be professional.  Keeping your personal friendships outside the office is just good business.

If you have ever had an office friendship become a problem, I’d love to hear about your experience and how you handled it.

All the best,

© 2013, Lydia Ramsey.  All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

Lydia Ramsey is an international business etiquette expert, based in Savannah, Georgia.  Her newest publication, Don’t Be a Turkey during the Holidays: The Complete Guide to Etiquette and Protocol during the Holiday Season, is now available for download on her website at
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