Friendliness vs. Friendship
in the Workplace

Coworkers Laughing

In business, friendliness is so important.

Whether you're interacting with clients, customers, coworkers, or even competitors, presenting yourself in a friendly manner builds trust and credibility.  And you need these to do business successfully.

But what happens when friendliness crosses the border into friendship?

In a work environment, this may become a precarious situation.

Caution:  Friends at Work

Your place of business should be a welcoming space, but also requires professionalism.  Working with people who are your friends opens the door for preferential treatment and biased decisions.

Being in business with people who are overly familiar and comfortable with you could lead to a breach of trust - intentional or not.  It's very easy for an innocent conversation between coworkers to turn inappropriate, revealing your professional vulnerabilities or shortcomings.

When you take the risk of being friends with your boss or a fellow staff member, you might consider compartmentalizing your friendship and your work.

Each of you should understand that there is work to be done during business hours.  It's best to agree that decisions, suggestions, delegations, etc. made during business hours are based solely on business.

It's also good practice to maintain the same demeanor with everyone you work with.

Friendliness and Professionalism Go Together

You can be friendly and let your professionalism shine when you:

  • Greet people with a proper handshake and eye contact. Beware of hugs or pats on the arm.
  • Respect the space of coworkers.  You don't enter someone's office or cubicle without permission.  And you'd never remove a file or a stapler without your coworker's knowledge and permission.
  • Refrain from gossip.
  • Give credit where credit is due.  We rarely achieve something without help.  When appropriate, you recognize those who contribute to a successful project or sale.
  • Respect your coworkers' time.  You are organized and only hold meetings that directly contribute to a result.
  • Are helpful and accommodating.  Not only is this a sign of professionalism, it's a sign of a kind person.

A professional demeanor is easy to recognize.  The person who possesses one is respected, looked to for direction, and recognized for a job well done.  No matter who your friends are.

When Friendship Goes South

Working with a former friend can be incredibly awkward unless you have the above advice already in place.  And even then there are no guarantees.

It may be helpful to talk about it with one another.  Or it may just be better to remember that you are coworkers, and professionals.  You have work to do and you will do it to the best of your ability.

Also, put aside the reason you are no longer friends, and rely on friendliness to forge a positive working relationship.


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