Friends vs. Coworkers: How to Build Trust & Bridge the Gap

Do you ever look around your workplace and wish the faces surrounding you were the faces of friends, not just coworkers? You like these people, and you respect most of them, but you rarely see each other beyond the walls of your workplace. And when push comes to shove, you aren’t sure how much you can trust them. Everyone shows up on time and works hard, but when the day is over, it’s over. And since you spend a third of your life here, it makes sense to establish real relationships in this place…or at least try.If you’ve ever wanted to extend a workplace friendship beyond the nine to five and into the realm of after work drinks, weekend trips, or playdates for your children, that’s a positive and healthy impulse. And as a side effect, these efforts can also help you build team cohesion and increase the quality of your work. Try the moves below, if you haven’t already.

1. Listen

Yes, you have lots to do at your desk. And yes, you have a looming deadline and you’d like to get back to the grind. But as you stand here beside the coffee machine, your coworker casually mentions that his dad is undergoing a serious medical test next week. Should you blurt a few sympathetic-sounding words and scuttle back to your desk? Or should you keep mouth closed and just stay where you are for a few more minutes? Try the second. Work and deadlines are important, but a long life is just a series of thousands of small daily decisions. This time, stay here. Keep listening. See what happens.

2. Help

When you see someone struggling with something—from a broken copy machine to a tedious report to a potentially embarrassing moment in a meeting—don’t just keep moving past. Stop, investigate, and then help out. This gesture is small, but it’s very personal and it resonates with others for a long time. The person you’re helping won’t forget what you’ve done for them.

3. Invite

Keep things easy and casual at first, but don’t be afraid to suggest social activities, even if you think no one will respond. Find a clean, pleasant restaurant or bar within walking distance of your workplace and suggest a drink on a relaxed Friday afternoon. At first you may hear nothing but crickets. But don’t be intimidated. Try again a week later.

4. Go

When someone else in your workplace tries to lighten the mood, rally others for a spontaneous happy hour, or change the culture for the better—don’t let them bear the burden alone. Say yes. Show up. Make the person glad that he put himself out there.

Use Your Voice

If you want the social environment around you to change in some way (at work, at home, in your community, or anywhere else for that matter), sometimes it’s a good idea to just say so. Let those around you know that you’d like things to be different then they are. They may be thinking the same thing, and others may be able to affect change in ways that you can’t. Just speak up.In the meantime, know that if your workplace isn’t working for you, change is always an option. When it’s time to find a new job, visit MyPerfectResume and hit the road.