How to Separate Friendship and Work Relationships

Don't let your relationships get in the way of your work performance.
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Starting out in the workplace isn't the same as your first day in college or moving into a new dorm. While acting friendly toward your co-workers can benefit your career in the long run and make the day-to-day aspects of your job tolerable, you need to know how to separate social friendships and work relationships if you want to maintain a professional profile.

1 Role Play

While being frosty toward co-workers isn't necessary, don't forget why you work. You weren't hired to be a new BFF for your department mates. Your company hired you to be an employee. Unlike a college sorority or a weekend sports team, work is typically not equivalent to a social experience. If you are struggling to separate friendships from work relationships, remind yourself why you are there in the first place. Focus on the job at hand, not socializing with co-workers.

2 Be Selective

Instead of befriending everyone at work, get selective and consider how a social relationship could affect your career or your ability to keep your after-school job. Keep clear of co-workers that routinely gossip or are vindictive. They could ruin your career or get you into trouble with the boss. Additionally, friendships in the workplace can distract you from your job and decrease your productivity, according to the article "Friends and Co-Workers" on the American Psychological Association website.

3 Keep Quiet

Stay mum around co-workers. This doesn't mean that you need to zip it all of the time. Keep conversations work-related. For example, don't talk about the D that you got on your Spanish final or your recent break-up with your boyfriend while on lunch-break with co-workers. Instead, discuss ideas for a new proposal or how your daily sales goals are going. When the conversation turns to work, avoid gossip or unsolicited reviews of a co-worker's performance.

4 Supervisor Dilemma

A boss who wants to blur the lines may be a full-fledged challenge. If the boss demands that you socialize with him or go out after work, simply saying "no" may not feel like an option. If you are still in high school, tell your boss that your parents won't let you. It is unlikely that he'll go against them, and this takes the weight off of you. If you are old enough that mom and dad's say doesn't matter, develop a plan to decline the offer before he or she brings it up. Get to know your boss's patterns and responses to better prepare for what is ahead, writes professor of leadership and organizational psychology Ronald E. Riggio in the article, "How to Deal with a Difficult or Bullying Boss," on the Psychology Today website.

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.