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Setting Boundaries with Workplace Friendships

By: Danielle Bertini, LPC

When you spend most of your week with the same people, you’re bound to form bonds with some of them — which is great! It’s nice to have co-workers who support your goals and inspire you. However, the line between colleagues and friends can often blur. Overstepping boundaries with people at work can cause tension, miscommunication, and distractions. Business News Daily Editor (2020) offers tips to properly and professionally manage your friendships in the workplace. 

  1. Don’t overshare.



Unfortunately, your work friends might not be as loyal as a typical friend outside of work. Keeping this in mind, discussing weekend plans or last night’s reality TV show is a safe bet, but if you vent too much about work issues you may stir problems. 

To determine how solid your friendship is, try asking yourself if you’d be close with this person outside of work. If the answer is no, then tread carefully. You can still enjoy the rapport with them, but still, recognize that it is simply a friendly relationship at work. This information also goes both ways. If you don’t want everyone to know your business, then be sure not to ask nosy questions to them. 

2. Be realistic about your dynamic.



When initiating a friendship at work, it’s important to understand that it won’t have the same dynamic as it would outside of the office. Cooper Hakim, a consultant at The Cooper Strategic Group, shares “When you can distinguish between these types of friendships and appreciate the beauty of having congenial friendships at work, you will enjoy the camaraderie without the strings.” He also adds that “You will be less hurt if your work friend turns out not to be as loyal as you might hope.” It’s nice to have someone to spend coffee breaks with or have lunch with, but it doesn’t have to be more than that.


3. Set boundaries.


Boundaries are crucial for work friendships. It’s fine to socialize with your co-workers, but at the end of the day, your relationships shouldn’t hinder your performance. For example, your friend can’t expect you to have her back on a project just because you are work friends. Similarly, you can’t expect her to promote your idea in a staff meeting if she doesn’t actually agree with it.  


4. Stay goal-oriented.


Sometimes work friendships can cause you to become confused about your true purpose of coming to work. At times, you might feel more loyal to your work friends than to the company you work for. However, it’s important to keep in mind that you are all there for a specific purpose and that you need to stay focused on your goals. 


5. Don’t trash-talk your boss.


Although gossiping can be tempting, trash-talking your boss can interfere with your workplace goals, help someone paint you in a negative light, and even cost you your job. While some level of complaining may be a part of many jobs, you have to know the line and be sure to watch what you say and whom you say it to. 

6. Don’t let them take advantage. 



While some co-workers may be looking for a genuine friendship and connection, others might be seeking out someone to dump their work on or help cover for them when they make mistakes. If you find that someone is constantly asking you for favors, but is unwilling to repay those same favors, this is a very one-sided situation that needs to end. 

Connect with Symmetry Counseling to meet with a Chicago therapist to learn more tools for setting boundaries in relationships.


Business News Daily Editor. (2020, February 25). How to Set Boundaries for Workplace 

Friendships. Retrieved from

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