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Should You Be Cautious When it Comes to Work Friends?

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There’s a big difference between work friends and friends that you met through school or quiz night at your favorite bar . The first thing that sets these two sorts of friends apart is that you probably see your work friends a whole lot more than your off-the-clock chums. Even though you might spend upwards of 40 hours per-week in close proximity with your work buddies, chances are that you are much more comfortable sharing personal information with the friends you’ve made outside the office.

Now isn’t that strange, how time spent with a person doesn’t add up to more trust?

I mean, it can take months to get the learn the sort of basic, first-date kind of information about a co-worker that you usually find out within the first few encounters with people outside of work. When you’re socializing in the break room or the courtyard outside, the elephant in the room is…well, the room itself.

The reason that we are so careful with what we share with our work friends is that misplaced trust can have damaging effects on our reputation and career.

Put yourself in the shoes of Mitch Exampleman: today’s doomed, hypothetical sales rep.

After going out for drinks with the sales team on a few occasions, Mitch felt comfortable enough with his colleagues to do a little grousing about their supervisor. The rest of the team laughed along with Mitch’s diatribe and Mitch actually thought it was a great bonding experience. And then the other shoe dropped.

The following morning, Mitch is called into his supervisor’s office to have a truly uncomfortable conversation about any “problems you might have with the way we do things here.” Turns out that someone on the team is a snitch. Now, normally, snitches get stitches. In the corporate world, however, snitches usually get promotions.

The point is, you should usually err on the side of caution when it comes to work friends.

If you’ve just recently gotten chummy with somebody, it’s probably not a great idea to dish dirt or tell them about your secret obsession with antique miniatures ( you don’t want to be known only as that dollhouse person). Even if somebody sets the prescient by trying to gossip with you about people around the office, it’s better to just stay out of it. Leave the cliques and rumor mill in high school people. Throwing in the pressures of “fitting in” to whatever the predominant social group holds the reigns at your work on top of normal job-related stress is just making things too complicated.

I’m not saying that you should be paranoid or never speak to anyone at your job, but make sure that you keep things professional as you get to know the people at your work.

Once you know that your work friend isn’t overly judgmental, a snitch or just plain mean, then, by all means, let them know a bit more about who you are. Work friends can be invaluable: brightening up your work day, helping you in crunch time, or just being there to talk to when you need to vent about a customer or a supervisor.

Yes, be yourself, but stay on your best behavior until you know what to expect in return.

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