Co-Workers, Work Acquaintances, Work Friends

She says, “don’t you know that this is a professional workplace?” to him with a snide tone as a reply to his question of whether I ever get hyper. I said it weeks ago that we were only “co-workers” and it definitely struck a nerve with her. Since that day, she’s made comments often enough. But the truth is, they are just co-workers. I don’t want to go out for drinks with them, I don’t want to go out for dinner with them… I want to focus on my job and make friends as I go along. Why should we be friends… just because we started at the same time?

Do I wish I could take back that comment? Sometimes. But at other times, it’s too accurate of my feelings. And I can’t always hide that… in fact, it’s quite difficult for me to hide how I’m feeling. When the day is over at 1500, I want to go home. I’m not going to become best friends with these people, at least not in the next 3 months.

There’s different categories in my opinion:

  • Co-workers: The people that I see when I’m actually at work. I’m not rude (at least not by my standards), I ask how they are and their weekends but am I really listening? Not really. Do I expect them to really unearth any of their dreams or goals to me? Not really. I really am expecting a one word to one sentence answer.
  • Work acquaintances: People that I’m friendly with… I’ll spend a bit of time at their desk but mostly when I want to procrastinate (to be honest). Sometimes the conversations veer off work but that’s really the basis of the conversations.
  • Work friends: People that I’m genuinely interested in what’s happening in their (surface) life. I don’t expect them to tell me about everything going on in their lives but we can have a genuine conversation. I might even be caught talking to them in the parking lot at work after a shift was over for 15 or 20 minutes. We might even go out but a lot of the conversations resolve around work (conflicts, gossip, policy, stress etc). But I would also be somewhat surprised if I was invited to a major life event (eg wedding, baby shower etc) for this person.
  • Friends: I can start to tell them a bit more about my life and want to know about theirs. I want to know about their ideology of life and their opinions about events.

This is definitely not an exhaustive list or maybe not even well thought. I’m not saying that people who work together can’t become friends. If anything, my life has showed how I am friends with people from work outside of work. But at the same time, you have to determine that ground between work friends and friends. There are plenty of people who I was work friends with but after we stopped working at the same place, we stopped being friends.

There’s also something nice about being somewhat “mysterious” at work. Maybe mysterious isn’t a great word but I don’t like when people know everything that’s going on in my life. I try to keep my personal life outside of my work life. One of the last things that I want at work is to be distracted by what’s going on in my home life. Obviously there’s going to be a mix (something like when different colours of playdoh get mixed together and it’s almost impossible to separate them). But I think that’s much later on when your identity is more connected to your position.

But my identity being wrapped to my position is something that I want to try to avoid. I’ve read enough research that shows how when you have more segments to your identity, you’re less shaken if one of those aspects is threatened/limited.

Co-workers, work acquaintances and work friends are going to enter your life. Social work environments are great and teamwork environments are spectacular but there’s a difference between social and teamwork as well as the level of friendship between people in work settings.

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