How to Set Friendship Boundaries at Work

Post college, making new friends becomes quite the challenge. For the first time in your life, you are no longer surrounded by hundreds or thousands of people your age, with similar backgrounds and interests. Sadly, this transition can make forming new friendships very difficult.

Which is why it can be so easy to bond quickly with your coworkers. They are who you spend a huge chunk of time with, after all. I’ve made some of my best friends through work, and I wouldn’t change a thing! But I know that I’ve been lucky and that forging friendships at work can come with some complications. Don’t fret, you can still become good friends with your coworkers, but lessen the chances of getting yourself into any sticky office situations.


Talk Is Cheap


Don’t Gossip


Is there anything more cathartic than a lunchtime catch-up on all the latest office happenings? Unfortunately, not really. But you have to be considerate when talking about delicate office issues. Who is hired, fired, or is in hot water with their boss can have major ramifications on careers and livelihoods. It doesn’t help anybody to add fuel to the rumor fire. And even if you’re talking to a friend you trust, they may also tell a friend they trust, and next thing you know you could be known as the office gossip — which your manager will not appreciate.


Don’t Vent Too Much


When you’re frustrated about work, venting to someone who knows all the players and all the details of what your job actually entails can be really cathartic. Your doting romantic partner really does care, but they don’t always know who you’re talking about or understand why those expense reports are so difficult to fill out. As tempting as it can be to vent about your manager, a project, or another coworker to a work friend, it can actually surround your friendship with a lot of negativity. You don’t want your entire bond to be about your frustrations with your job, and too much negative talk may increase your negative feelings about your job. You also risk poisoning your friendship or career by focusing too much on the bad and not enough on the good.


Source: Domino


Choose What You Share


It may feel cold to keep hush-hush about your weekend plans when asked about them in the break room, but you really don’t have to share anything you don’t want to. You can stay vague and positive when chatting about your personal life. If it feels like it’s difficult to deflect your curious coworkers, turn the conversation around on them and ask them lots of questions about what’s going on in their life. That way it looks like you care and aren’t trying to be rude, but you can keep your boundaries in place.


How to set friendship boundaries at work.

Source: Susanna Howe




Be Careful About Social Media


When it comes to connecting with colleagues on social media, knowing whether or not it’s appropriate can be super tricky. Obviously the safest path is to keep your account private and wait until you receive friend requests from colleagues. From there you can choose who you want to accept and who you don’t. It’s perfectly reasonable to not want to connect with coworkers on social media. If you choose not to respond to a friend request, it’s likely that no one will press the issue and you can maintain your privacy. But if you’re in a relaxed office environment or are a part of a tight knit team, then it may feel natural to connect online. Point being, you can easily set your boundaries with the click of a button, so don’t be afraid to.


How to set friendship boundaries at work.

Source: Kate Turpin


Keep Outings Appropriate


Sometimes 5 o’clock cannot come soon enough, especially when you’ve planned a happy hour with your favorite coworkers. It may feel relaxing to indulge at happy hours or other social outings with your work friends, but tread lightly on the alcohol front.


Be Sensitive


If you’ve formed such a strong friendship that you’re comfortable sharing time outside work with, then you’re very lucky! And as much as you may want to treat this friendship like any other, it would be wise to be sensitive to other team members who you may not be as close with. You don’t want anyone you work with to feel left out, so keep the social media posts and stories about plans with your work buddy on the down low. That way no one’s feelings are hurt, which will keep your team functioning peacefully.


How do you set friendship boundaries at work?

  • My biggest tip is to find neutral common ground over which you can bond with coworkers. I find talking about things like cooking, recipes, TV shows, sports, or hobbies can help you get to know coworkers better, but they’re fairly safe topics and you don’t have to veer too much into anything too personal or gossipy.

  • I don’t add any of my coworkers to social media. I post a lot of politically charged, activism related stuff – mainly on my Facebook – and enjoy a good debate. Just not with my coworkers, because that stuff has a difficult time staying on the screen and I don’t want to get fired over a screaming match on whether or not Nazis deserve a platform…

    Otherwise, a lot of us tend to commiserate about negative job stuff and it does feel pretty cathartic. Better than talking about how abusive your spouse is or how your kid’s sick in the hospital again….

  • Ashley

    love the part about not gossiping, gossip is truly toxic!

  • Stephanie Sidak

    Another point I would add to this list is to be careful about who you become vulnerable with. You never really know your colleagues’ true agenda, even if you’ve been socializing frequently with them. I’ve been burned by women who act like my friend outside of the office, but then was actively working to ruin my relationship with our shared boss behind my back. You’d like to be able to trust people, but you just never know.