he workplace can be tough to navigate as a female professional. You want to make friends and get to know your coworkers in order to feel more at home and accepted in your role, but the dynamic can be challenging. What can you confide in coworkers about? Is there a line that shouldn’t be crossed?
We’ll answer those difficult questions for you, but first, know it has been proven that women who make friends at work show increased productivity and engagement. That’s right -- making new friends at work is not only great for your mental health and social life, but it can actually help you in your career. Read on for more benefits to friendships in the workplace as a professional woman, and how you can establish them if you haven’t already!
Why make friends at work?
There are a lot of great reasons to make friends at work! It’s easier than you might think. You work together everyday, meaning you already have one common interest -- your career paths -- which is the most common reason friendships form aside from proximity. In fact, 60% of women have a best work friend. How cool is that?!
It can be really beneficial to have another woman or network of women in the office who you can go to for advice, whether it be regarding a conflict with another coworker or other tensions in the office. Female friends can offer sound advice and a safe space to open up before taking any serious concerns to Human Resources or someone higher up when necessary. Having someone to lean on when you are concerned about a situation at work is very important.
Work friends can also offer creative support! Founder and CEO of The Unique Empire, Sonja Rasula emphasizes how important workplace friendships are when you need to bounce ideas off of someone, practice pitching your new ideas before taking them to your boss, or review materials before meetings to make sure you’re totally in the know.
Rasula also believes that “...when you have friends at work, I believe there is a camaraderie that results in better work, more creative output and motivation -- which result in more productivity and workplace satisfaction.” Support from friends can really make work feel more like a second home!
We all know how challenging it can be to find motivation at work sometimes. But did you know that female representation in the office alone is a huge motivating factor for professional women?
Being surrounded by accomplished women meeting their goals is super inspiring, and with workplace friendships, you can reflect on and further develop those goals together! A friend at work also means someone to add to your network, who can potentially help you make more connections -- personally and professionally!
You may be looking to expand your personal network after moving to a new city, or because you just want to branch out more. The best way to meet new people is through friends of friends, so your work bestie could definitely help you with that by inviting you out and introducing you to other friends! And of course, growing your professional network is always important, too. Like we said, you already have some common ground in terms of your career paths, so it’s likely that your work friends have relevant connections in your shared field.
No matter how much you enjoy or even love your job, work is not always fun and games. For anyone. But having a work BFF can make long days at the office a lot more bearable -- and maybe even fun! You’ll have a lunch break buddy and someone to chat and joke with throughout the day, making the long hours pass by quickly. Coming into work everyday does not have to be absolutely dreadful. Thanks work besties!
How to establish strong workplace friendships
Now comes the hard part -- establishing workplace friendships with your coworkers. It’s not actually that hard, though, but it is natural to feel hesitant to start up casual conversations with coworkers, and even more so when you’re trying to establish friendships outside of work, too.
Spoiler alert: your female coworkers probably want to make friends and build a support system just as much as you do! With the following ideas in the back of your mind, it will be easy to spot a work friend you can count on.
Say yes to friends who hype you up
Unfortunately, it’s common for people in the workplace to get a little competitive and jealous -- you have all worked really hard to get to where you are. Oftentimes, coworkers are vying for the same promotion or project, while still having to work together everyday. You will encounter competitive people at work. It’s inevitable, and you have to deal with them, but they don’t have to be your best friend or even just your best work friend. In fact, it’s much better to become close with people who hype you up!
Women in the workplace should be encouraging and positive, not trying to tear each other down. Making friends with someone who builds you up when you are struggling with a work project is a true friend, and someone you know you can trust! Plus, you can always return the favor and support your friend the next time they are feeling down. These are the people you really want to surround yourself with!
And no to workplace gossip
One line you may not want to cross with your work besties is the line between a confidant and a gossip buddy. Drama, tension, and conflict often arise between coworkers, and it’s one thing to confide in a friend about what’s going on with you and what you need help navigating, but gossiping about situations that don’t involve you is not a good idea.
If your work friends are gossiping and speaking negatively about coworkers with you, there’s a large chance that they will talk about you, too. This can really end up contributing to a toxic work environment -- keep the “gossip” light and fun, maybe dissecting the latest celebrity drama together instead of the latest office rumors.
Don’t forget to establish some boundaries!
This is where the line gets a little blurry -- you don’t want to just talk about work if you’re looking to establish a genuine friendship which is why gossip can be tempting. Hint: gossiping does not help establish genuine friendships! There is plenty of harmless drama and news to discuss regarding pop-culture or TV shows and movies you love.
If you are looking for genuine friends at work -- who will maybe, possibly, eventually become outside of work friends -- talking about things you love and are interested in is a sure-fire way to do so! You need to get to know this person in order to establish mutual trust, so make sure you are open about who you actually are outside of work, at least to an extent. What do you like to do for fun? What are your friends and family like (without spilling too much of their personal drama)? These are just a few conversation starters that can lead into a deeper friendship and finding common ground. Common interests can lead to hanging out outside of work and learning more about your new friend!
However, there might be some things you want to keep to yourself, especially when you are hanging out, chatting, and getting to know each other inside an office environment. Editor of Damsel in Dior Jacey Duprie says, “I personally think it is unprofessional to share salary information along with religion, politics, or family issues.” Those are judgment calls you will want to make for your individual workplace friendships, but those may be areas wherein you want to set some boundaries.
Finding people you can trust at work is only going to make you more successful, more motivated, and overall the best version of yourself as a woman in the workplace. In all facets of life, it’s imperative to surround yourself with a few people you can really trust, including at work! Reaching out to new friends can be intimidating, but you can start simple by enjoying a lunch break with coworkers or asking someone out for a quick coffee. Before you know it, you’ll be so comfortable with your coworkers, and maybe even find a friend for life.