Why Having Friends At Work Is So Important
September 23, 2015 12:07 AM   Subscribe

Once, work was a major source of friendships. We took our families to company picnics and invited our colleagues over for dinner. Now, work is a more transactional place. We go to the office to be efficient, not to form bonds. We have plenty of productive conversations but fewer meaningful relationships.
posted by ellieBOA (123 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
 
I saw those people at least forty hours a week. I often spent more time with them than my own wife due to our completely incompatible schedules. Why the hell would I want to spend any more time around them? Work is not the only seam from which meaningful relationships can be mined, and I personally found it to be the worst one.
posted by Sternmeyer at 12:52 AM on September 23, 2015 [68 favorites]


I would prefer Bill shut the fuck about his weekend and do his goddamn job and get me the shit I need so I can my job with as little stress as possible. Do that and then we can go get a beer every now and then.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:03 AM on September 23, 2015 [52 favorites]


This rings true in a British context when I compare my social circle with my parents'. However, there are complicating factors: I'm a professional in an office, not a manager in a factory; and I work in the centre of London, not in a small to medium town. My colleagues live North, South, East and West of London, usually a fair way out (Brighton, Rochester, Milton Keynes, Reading). We can go to the pub or hang around in Covent Garden or somewhere for an office do now and then, but to invite each other to dinner at home would be mad.

On the other hand I have acquaintances who still work in smallish coherent organisations in smallish market towns and they still routinely invite each other to their children's weddings.
posted by Segundus at 1:04 AM on September 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


Also, Amanda thinks we're buds now and thinks she can invite me to lunch and then take two hours. Goddamn it Amanda I need to get back to the office and remind Bill to give me those files. Pour your third cosmo into the to-go cup and lets bounce!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:07 AM on September 23, 2015 [32 favorites]


My entire team all *truly* believe in psychic phenomenon. They talk about their powers (they all have them!) and I couldn't run away fast enough at the end of every shift. As someone who's actually quite good at cold-reading and has more than a passing interest in the techniques of con men and grifters it's hilarious listening to them all as they trade stories with one another. It's like a lesson in wishful thinking and cognitive bias.

Work Colleague #1: "Does your mum have blonde hair?"
Work Colleague #2: "No, but my aunt does"
Work Colleague #1:"Oh, I had a dream about her last night"
Work Colleague #2: "Really? What was she doing?"
Work Colleague #1: "She was dancing and laughing."
Work Colleague #2: "Oh, that's odd, she's in a wheelchair and her husband just died"
Work Colleague #1: "..."
Work Colleague #2: "But she did like dancing before the accident"
Work Colleague #1: "It must have been that then."
Both Together: "PSYCHIC!"

I cannot have sensible discourse with them on any subject as they have all somehow reached adulthood without the ability to learn new information and it's absolutely painful to me that I have to listen to any of them wittering on about any of it.

Would I hang out with them after work? You'd have to pay me at least ten times my working wage to do so. Yuck.
posted by longbaugh at 1:36 AM on September 23, 2015 [52 favorites]


(I should add that I don't relentlessly mock them normally and we all get on fine, it's just that work life is work life and outside is where the nice things happen, away from my Second Stage Lensmen co-workers).
posted by longbaugh at 1:37 AM on September 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


Work is where I go to poop. You don't hang out with people you meet at the bathroom do you?
posted by Literaryhero at 1:40 AM on September 23, 2015 [39 favorites]


You get to choose your friends. You don't get to choose your co-workers. It's a big difference.

I would have actually gone the other way with this: it seems unusual nowadays to want to keep your work life and your home life separate, and to not want to discuss details of your personal life at work.
posted by tallmiddleagedgeek at 1:59 AM on September 23, 2015 [7 favorites]


I have some really smart, loyal and fun coworkers! Those are my friends now.
I wouldn't want to have to be friends and merge home life and work life, though.
posted by Omnomnom at 2:23 AM on September 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm happy to be amiable and have a chat with co-workers if we're both unoccupied during working hours for whatever reason, but I have little enough time me-time and family-time as it is. I've even tried in the past to have work friends and do outside-work things with them, but it's never an experience I walk away from wanting to repeat.

If you like it, more power to you, please enjoy, but don't be offended by my absence - It's nothing personal, I'm just an introvert whose social interaction meter is already drained by the time I'm clocking out.
posted by gloriouslyincandescent at 2:23 AM on September 23, 2015 [8 favorites]


Work is where grown ass men who should know better leer at me and I have to pretend it isn't happening. Friends? No thanks.
posted by travertina at 2:39 AM on September 23, 2015 [20 favorites]


At my last job, I had amazing friends. They came (overseas!) to my wedding. I went to theirs, and/or baby showers, and/or other major life milestones depending on their age. We've gone out for dinner and drinks and been to each other's houses and met family members. Some of them became the first to know I was pregnant (after my husband of course). I still keep in touch with all of them even though we've all moved on now. I honestly probably stayed at that job as long as I did because going to work was like going to hang out with my friends all day, and even when my projects were pissing me off I at least knew I was working with really good people I genuinely liked. I really hope the next job I have is the same way, because I've also had jobs with people who just really wanted to do the 9-5 thing and go away and that was a sad depressing boring job.

That said, totally happy that the days of Invite Your Boss To Your House For Dinner are over. Wouldn't be cool with that.
posted by olinerd at 2:47 AM on September 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


The article weirdly handwaves the end of the era of lifetime employment as being an impediment to this. In my father's generation, you could count on your coworkers being people you knew from the day you were all fresh out of school to the day you retired (and were men, and had wives to take care of distractions like kids and domestic matters). You had no choice over the cohort you had to make friends with, and you were going to be stuck with them for thirty years, so you'll be developing through your twenties, finding hobbies, starting families, and planning activities all more or less in unison. In my generation, not changing jobs every few years is the end of professional growth -- and my new coworkers at any job might be college graduates or working parents who have offset schedules so that they can drive the kids to school or work on their side jobs in the evening. Anything we have in common is going to be circumstantial -- if a couple of us click well together, that's great, but it's not going to be the subject of active pursuit, especially when they're as likely as not to be gone in nine months to a new gig at the other side of town.

It's not just that nobody has time for that, it's that professional work culture has been redesigned to prevent people from bonding. Making an effort to build strong, lasting friendships doesn't help any more than forming casual acquaintanceships that let you add their names to your LinkedIn account.
posted by at by at 2:50 AM on September 23, 2015 [113 favorites]


Capitalism creates its own crisis, again!

Also tried to make ad revenue off you reading about it.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:58 AM on September 23, 2015 [15 favorites]


Surprised at all the negative comments, I've always had friends that I've made at work and can't imagine that I'm all that untypical.
posted by octothorpe at 3:11 AM on September 23, 2015 [29 favorites]


Wow, different to my background (mostly) in the arts/cultural area - the majority of my friends are from work and I wouldn't have it any other way. We're all mad but we got each other's back.
posted by deadwax at 3:11 AM on September 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


The article weirdly handwaves the end of the era of lifetime employment as being an impediment to this. In my father's generation, you could count on your coworkers being people you knew from the day you were all fresh out of school to the day you retired

That's interesting: I was actually thinking the opposite effect might hold. I was thinking about how my experience in academia has been that everyone only seems to have friends from work and it's almost rare to be close to people who you don't work with. And my off-hand explanation for that was the mobility and insecurity of academic jobs. If you are uprooting your life for each degree, and then again for multiple post docs, and each time moving to a new country or city where you have no connections, of course you'll make friends with your colleagues, because they are in the same boat. They might even speak the same language as you. And you are all newish to the place and looking for people to hang out with. And then if you are lucky enough to get a more secure job eventually, that's still the modus operandi that you have learned: you build roots in a community by hanging out with your colleagues.

(And with other metafilter users, obvs.)
posted by lollusc at 3:26 AM on September 23, 2015 [10 favorites]


The only job(s) I had where I ended up making real friends was when I was a barista. These were people I genuinely liked and cared for in a position where I did not know that that could be A Thing. We went and got beers after shift together, supported each other's creative endeavors, discussed our love lives at length, checked out new cheap places to eat. Heck, a lot of them were at my wedding. But I think maybe a retail/food environment does that more easily than an office one, and especially if you are all in your early 20s, just starting to figure out who you are.

At my current office job, I am happy to be polite and nice because the people I work with are perfectly decent--my boss is of the "terrible dad jokes and gregarious demeanor" school--but I can't say I'd ever feel the same closeness to them I do for my old friends. For a start, they all vote Conservative and go to church (no one has ever asked or cared about my religious affiliations), which is not something I can identify with easily.
posted by Kitteh at 3:37 AM on September 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


Would I hang out with them after work? You'd have to pay me at least ten times my working wage to do so. Yuck.

The Department of PreCrime's New Years party is a downer as well. "What's your resolution? Wait... Don't bother."
*awkward silence*
posted by robocop is bleeding at 3:53 AM on September 23, 2015 [19 favorites]


At some point, "I'm not here to make friends" became a national motto.
posted by Faint of Butt at 3:55 AM on September 23, 2015 [22 favorites]


I think the end of lifetime employment is absolutely at the centre of this, but it's not clear-cut. In this new world, social capital is everything: if you're going to bounce around from job to job, you're going to need "in"s at a lot of organisations, and you're going to need to be kept abreast of new roles as they pop up.

That means that while it's no longer in your interest to know absolutely everyone in your org at a deep level, it's totally in your interest to know one or two key people pretty well, and to keep in touch with them once they or you move on.

(As well as all the usual interests of not being totally lonely and alienated for a large part of your waking day, like).

This seems to me how it's playing out. I generally see two tribes in every org: the obvious lifers, and the modern nomads. The lifers act like they always did, the nomads have far-flung social networks patched together with a person here and a person there, all bound together with social media and IM.
posted by bonaldi at 4:11 AM on September 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


I've gotten all but one of my jobs since my first one via friends, I'm not sure how I'd have a career without them.
posted by octothorpe at 4:23 AM on September 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think it's nice when I can get along with my coworkers. It takes a lot of the schadenfreude out of boning their spouses.
posted by oheso at 4:27 AM on September 23, 2015 [7 favorites]


Spend your life working at one company and you make some good friends. Spend three years at one place and job hop then not so much. Yeah, you keep in touch on LinkedIn and the maybe the occasional lunch, but there's no invites to children's weddings.
posted by LoveHam at 4:28 AM on September 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Hanging out with coworkers outside of work would remind me of work.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:51 AM on September 23, 2015 [9 favorites]


Hanging out with coworkers outside of work would remind me of work.

Except it's even worse because they're pretending to (or -- the horror! -- attempting to) be nice.
posted by oheso at 4:56 AM on September 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


My entire team all *truly* believe in psychic phenomenon. They talk about their powers (they all have them

I have this same problem, but it's a pretty common situation when you work for a boss who is trying to Rule the Earth from Beyond the Grave. Not only are my co-workers scheming types with unsavory habits, it's hard to pick a place to eat because of our varying dietary habits. I mean, you can only hang out in a crypt so many times, even if several coworker's aren't trying to end each others' unnatural existence. Also, I get enough mad cackling and gibbering when I'm on the clock.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:10 AM on September 23, 2015 [9 favorites]


Yeah, at my last job, the dudes who were all friends with each other got hired because they were all friends with each other "I know this guy, let's hire him over other, likely better candidates," then all hung out together at home as well as at work and were totally the plastic mean girls clique of the office and made dick jokes all the time and joked about how the other dudes in the office were all homos and picked on them for the way they looked or walked or what they wore and nothing ever stopped about it because every time I complained it was "well, we can't lose ALL of them, work would suffer," so woo yeah work friends, work friends are great, hope you're one of the work friends and not outside the circle.
posted by phunniemee at 5:11 AM on September 23, 2015 [21 favorites]


I work out of my home. While I don't get to see my direct coworkers too frequently, my office cookout is the bomb!
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:14 AM on September 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


I also work at home.

Me and the stuffed animals are totally buds, though.
posted by kyrademon at 5:17 AM on September 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'm going out drinking with my colleagues after work today. Everyone, me included, is looking forward to it.
posted by shelleycat at 5:19 AM on September 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


My father, who endured some major job shifts as an executive in the declining American steel industry, told me "think of your job as like being on a bus. Be cordial and friendly with the other riders, but remember that you or any of your coworkers could get off the bus, or be thrown off, at any time without warning. Some will stay on the bus for a long time, while others only briefly. For that matter, sometimes the bus itself stops and everyone gets off. So don't invest too much in workplace relationships." I have found this to be, sadly, sound advice.
posted by kinnakeet at 5:20 AM on September 23, 2015 [77 favorites]


Much anger and bitter I sense. I've quit jobs when the social went south. I'm wondering if some here might not benefit from doing the same.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:23 AM on September 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm in this weird position at work because when I was hired I was the youngest person in the department by, not exaggerating, at least 20 years. Now the department's hiring fresh college grads, and there aren't many people my age - too old for the just-out-of-college single life, too young to be talking about riding mowers and the deterioration of my marriage.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:26 AM on September 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


Tim in The Office said it best: "The people you work with are people you were just thrown together with. I mean, you don't know them, it wasn't your choice. And yet you spend more time with them than you do your friends or your family. But probably all you have in common is the fact that you walk around on the same bit of carpet for eight hours a day."
posted by Doktor Zed at 5:30 AM on September 23, 2015 [10 favorites]


I'm in this weird position at work because when I was hired I was the youngest person in the department by, not exaggerating, at least 20 years. Now the department's hiring fresh college grads, and there aren't many people my age - too old for the just-out-of-college single life, too young to be talking about riding mowers and the deterioration of my marriage.

I have the orthogonal situation to this: I am 20-30 years older than the vast majority of my coworkers (I am 52, but this organization skews quite young) and there is only one other person in my age bracket. Even my boss is 20 years younger than me. I have absolutely nothing in common with any of them, and, because I am over 40, I am totally irrelevant to any of them.
posted by briank at 5:36 AM on September 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


I had no real friends at my previous job. There were big generational and interest differences. I was friendly with them, but over time it proves to be a huge bummer to not have bigger connections than acquaintances at the place you spend most of your week.

My new job is infinitely better in that department, and I think it also makes us all better employees.
posted by lownote at 5:39 AM on September 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


I like some of my coworkers, as coworkers. I can chit-chat with them, at work, about food, video games (with the two other folks who play games), cats (with the other cat owners), and the two TV shows that I watch. That's about it.

Many of my coworkers are married with children, and live in the suburbs. I am single, (happily) childfree, and wouldn't move to the suburbs if you paid me. Big lifestyle difference right there.

Many of my coworkers have drunk deeply from the company Kool-Aid, and have thoughtful conversations about how they can best embody the mission statement, or how excited they are to bring value X to client Y. I am cynical about the whole industry I work in, and American business culture in general. I try to do the best job I can, but at the end of the day I'm just there to get that scrilla (make of that what you will).

Many of my coworkers are overtly religious. I'm so atheist I have the tattoo to prove it.

Pretty much all of my coworkers are more socially conservative than me, to one degree or another; a couple of them have made more-or-less racist/transphobic remarks in front of me (yes, I've called them out for it, to the extent that I can get away with).

Pretty much all the things I do for fun are very nerdy and/or esoteric; if I were to talk to my coworkers about any of them, I can guarantee it would produce blank stares.

Basically, I can't even be myself around my coworkers; the 40 hours a week I spend there is an exercise in self-censorship. Why would I want to extend that experience more than necessary? I have always viewed the line between "work life" and "personal life" as sacred and inviolable. Y'all go live your freaky, baffling lives over there, and I'll go live my freaky, baffling life over here. Sorry if that makes me antisocial. I've just never been glad when I've made tentative attempts to stray from this rule.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 5:40 AM on September 23, 2015 [26 favorites]


Much anger and bitter I sense. I've quit jobs when the social went south. I'm wondering if some here might not benefit from doing the same.

oh are you hiring?
posted by phunniemee at 5:40 AM on September 23, 2015 [16 favorites]


lollusc: I was thinking about how my experience in academia has been that everyone only seems to have friends from work and it's almost rare to be close to people who you don't work with. And my off-hand explanation for that was the mobility and insecurity of academic jobs.

My parents came from a much earlier generation of academia; one that was much more secure than it is today. After completing a few years of postdoc my father effectively worked two jobs for his entire career, both at high-end research institutions. And if he hadn't decided to change institutions, he would have worked only one job for his entire career. Most of our family friends were other academics, and most of them were also effectively lifers. All of which is to say that back when academia was far less itinerant, it was still commonplace to draw most of one's friends from work. My father's best friends in life were drawn from the group of guys who lived in his wing during undergraduate school and his colleagues from academia.

In either case, though, I think you're right on the mark in suggesting that because "you are uprooting your life . . . you'll make friends with your colleagues, because they are in the same boat." Because you have to go where the work is -- which is probably pretty far away from any established relationships you already have -- and because you will work long hours, etc. with people who share the same interests and are under the same pressures as you, it seems like a natural way to make most of you friends. This doesn't necessarily hold for other professions, though.
posted by slkinsey at 5:45 AM on September 23, 2015


Here's the thing.
Music is now not the radio, its on your phone or ipod or what have you. You don't even buy an album with two shitty songs on it that you have to listen to just to hear your favorite song - you only need buy your favorite song. TV is OnDemand, DVRed, or consumed differently. You can get your news slanted with your political tilt. We work off of curated lists that best match our own personalized interests... Public Library and Park use is down. Even shopping was too social so now we have brown boxes delivered to our house. We've eliminated almost every avenue of not having to learn to be nice to strangers with the exception of 'at work'. Maybe we should get over ourselves and learn to interact with our co-workers that we are awkward with, otherwise they also won't learn/maintain the ability to interact with people otherwise out of their comfort zone. Tolerance starts with adversity.
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:54 AM on September 23, 2015 [30 favorites]


Much anger and bitter I sense. I've quit jobs when the social went south. I'm wondering if some here might not benefit from doing the same.

Yeah seriously rolling my eyes at all the "grar shut up and don't try to be my friend and do your job!!!" comments. I did my best work when I actually liked my coworkers and they liked me. I went stagnant in situations where everyone was blah and going in every day felt like a chore. We're talking about coworkers genuinely enjoying each others company here, not boring people asking "how was your weekend!" while you're trying to get things done.
posted by windbox at 5:55 AM on September 23, 2015 [14 favorites]


I find it interesting that many of you immediately equated friendship with spending time together outside the workplace. I think the article hit on a salient point with vulnerability. It makes a huge difference to me if there are a couple of people at the office with whom I can occasionally safely remove my office face and show a little bit of vulnerability--with whom 'How are you today?' isn't always just a superficial question requiring a perfunctory answer.

I've been through some pretty tough personal experiences the last few years, and it means a lot to me to have a couple of people whom I trust enough to share a little bit about what's going on and who then sincerely ask me how I'm doing or how a particular situation is progressing. I don't have to share very much of my struggle--and they probably don't want to hear much--but there's a huge difference to me between not sharing anything about my problems and letting a few trusted people in on them enough that I feel their compassion occasionally.
posted by tippiedog at 5:56 AM on September 23, 2015 [17 favorites]


I had a job once at a small company where everyone was mostly in their 20s, everyone was a stoner (outside of work) and the work was such that we'd all return to the shop every day with war stories. We felt like we were all part of something and each one of us made a difference to its success. We'd bond with beers after work in the parking lot. We'd hang out on weekends. We all became friends and, 20-ish years later, we get together every couple of years and swap the same war stories.

Now I work in a cubicle. My job, all our jobs, feel largely pointless. I can overhear my coworkers going on and on about "hey did you hear Bruce Jenner got his penis removed and now he's a shim?" or fantasy football talk or "I bet that thing that landed on that comet was a secret military probe." or "I would totally vote for Trump..." or whatever the nonsense of the week is and it takes every ounce of energy I have not to throw things at these people.

I do like a couple of my co-workers, but at the end of the day I just want to get the hell out of here and go be with the people I love.
posted by bondcliff at 6:02 AM on September 23, 2015 [12 favorites]


I love having coworkers as friends. In reading this thread, I'm realizing that I've been extremely lucky to have chosen a career path where a lot of people share my values (ie, I don't have to deal with right-wing extremists or overgrown fratbros).

I will say that, as I've gotten older (I'm in my mid-thirties now), I've become a bit more discerning about which coworkers I cultivate as real friends. But there are coworkers from my twenties and even my thirties who are some of my best friends. I've been the maid of honor for two former coworkers, for instance.

Having friends (even the lighter "coworker buddies") just makes work so much more pleasant. It can help you do your job better, too. There are not a lot of office jobs these days where "just focus on your own work" will get you all that far - relationships with your coworkers are important in most workplaces to actually getting shit done.
posted by lunasol at 6:04 AM on September 23, 2015 [8 favorites]


Workplaces that convert their employees’ untenable ties into the durable bonds shared by fast friends will have cultures and communities that are alive and generative—in one word, thriving. As denizens of these communities, we will be doing something even more powerful than bringing our lives and souls with us to work: We will be sharing them with friends.
Well, sure. That would be great.

Here is the the thing: Sometimes, you don't actually care about that work in and of itself; you just need the money. Often, you have nothing in common with the people that end up in the same workplace as you, other than professional interest. This was also true back in the days when it made sense to work at one job for 40 years. But because people stuck around for decades, they ended up forming friendships, whether introvert or extrovert.

Now, you may be at a job for 2-3 years. That is a ton of time for some people. For others, advancing to real, "hang out for fun" relationships with their coworkers in that time would be like an extended networking campaign – exhausting.

On another axis, spending extended hours at a job can also lead to more work friendships. At the start of my career, I (foolishly) worked 11-hour days all the time, driven by the idea that I would somehow reach some kind of life-solving enlightenment by becoming a real good software developer and shipping whatever the bosses wanted us to ship. While that was bad for me in several ways, as a result of spending that much time around a set of people, I became close to them. I am still friends with a few of them. Should you do this to make friends? No. No, you should not. There's less costly ways.

I'm not against work friends, and I keep an eye out for potential ones whenever I start a new job, but "nice to have" doesn't always align with "possible."
posted by ignignokt at 6:05 AM on September 23, 2015 [8 favorites]


I've been at my office job for about a decade. I was mid-20s when I started. A decade later and I'm STILL the youngest by far. I get along fine with my coworkers. Many of them have those friendships being talked about. Of course, they're in their 50s and have been working here for 25 years. We just don't have much in common. So what? I like my job just fine and I never ever have to worry about emotional drama at the office.
posted by Windigo at 6:09 AM on September 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


my experience in academia has been that everyone only seems to have friends from work and it's almost rare to be close to people who you don't work with

Academia is a total institution, and like other total institutions (eg police, military, prison workers, boarding schools), people tend to socialize internally. The geographic mobility of academia, in how people attend grad school in one place, do one or more post grads elsewhere, and then take a tenure track job in yet another place (in the most straightforward ideal case, and many people of course move more often than this), as well as how even the most settled academics in permanent jobs travel to attend conferences and for invited talks, mean that people maintain long term friendships and contacts at other institutions that are often much closer than those with non-academic people in their own towns.

Right now I work in an extremely hierarchical environment. I'm friendly with the people I supervise and once in a while we will have a beer after work, but I am careful to maintain boundaries because I am the supervisor and might need to fire or discipline someone down the road. I maintain the same boundaries with those above me in the hierarchy, because of the same reason from their side. My work friendships are with people in other companies and agencies, whom I have now worked with on many projects over the years and where we can have friendships without the burden of direct supervision and authority.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:10 AM on September 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


But because people stuck around for decades, they ended up forming friendships, whether introvert or extrovert.

21 years at the same company. Have met zero people at work who have become actual friends. #winning
posted by bondcliff at 6:12 AM on September 23, 2015 [8 favorites]


It's an act of self-defense to not make good friends at the workplace these days, given the way so many companies view employees as disposable tools, and firing people because the bottom-line needs shored-up this quarter, and not because they haven't been doing their jobs. It's best not to get too emotionally invested in people who may be gone next week for no apparent reason.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:13 AM on September 23, 2015 [10 favorites]


Having friends (even the lighter "coworker buddies") just makes work so much more pleasant. It can help you do your job better, too.

This definitely goes a long way, and I've gotten better at establishing light friendly relationships with people that I don't "wholly endorse." What helps a lot is checking out and redirecting whenever the conversation goes into contentious territory. For me, that's libertarianism, JavaScript Suxx, or Poor People Are So Stupid and Dishonest. Just fuck smooth segues – I just jump into, hey, I heard about [thing related to one of your less objectionable interests] or hey, the ping pong table is open!
posted by ignignokt at 6:13 AM on September 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


I am friendly with my co-workers, and if a real friendship arises out of it, cool. I honestly don't try too hard because with the fluidity of today's job market, if you or them leave, you suddenly have a lot less in common. Plus there is the potential issue of an office friendship gone bad can very easily effect my work environment. It is easier to be cordial and not make waves.

On the other hand I have a second job that is just for fun, and I am generally friends with people from there. A lot of it is that the job is not my career, so I don't really give a crap about all of the petty office politics things that come up from time to time. I honestly see a lot of it as a big soap opera, which is entertaining, since I could literally walk away from this job with little to no impact on them or me. I don't mind the extra money, but it isn't much to begin with. So I show up, work my hours, have fun, and go home without worry about what happens when I am gone. Every once in a while, I hang out with them after work or go to a get together. Something I never do at my main job.

The number of people from my main job that I have as facebook friends is practically non-existent, but my linked in profile is full of them. My second job, it is reversed.
posted by Badgermann at 6:18 AM on September 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'd say I have friendly relationships at work, and there are a couple of people with whom I wouldn't mind being actual friends, but one of them is an academic and I'm not, and that pretty well scotches friendship unless you meet outside of work.

But about the larger question: I feel like there's a broader range of...hm...things to believe in now, and you can be divorced or single or maybe even gay and still be employable, plus it's no longer acceptable to advocate for a racially or gender-segregated workplace. Basically, fifty years ago I would have been deeply closeted or unemployable, and if I had left-wing politics I'd have to keep those in the closet too, while most of those around me would have been white, Christian, married and centrist. Now that I can actually be myself, I can't have as many friends at work, because we're no longer pushed either to believe the same things or to pretend that we do.
posted by Frowner at 6:19 AM on September 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


I just left my last job of 2.5 years. During my time there I was very careful to not make friends with anyone. I would happily be your colleague but that's as far as it went. They were all very nice people, tho, and we shared some good times.

I made this decision based on my previous job. I'd been there for 15 years and considered many of those I worked with friends; we went out, I went to a couple of their weddings, shared a lot of myself with them. But as soon as I was made redundant I was persona non grata. I lived 10 minutes from the office and was never invited back to join them after work, or to go to gigs or meetups. When I contacted them or "happened to bump into them at the local" after a year of no contact I felt like an outsider.

Since then I been given the slow fade by at least one person I thought was my friend, and the other, after continually being left of out things, I told I was cutting contact. I've not spoken to them in a year.

I won't say I'll never try for a friendship inside work again, but that experience completely fucked my perceptions of friendship up.

I felt I'd been lied to for years.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 6:25 AM on September 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


Yeah, fuck that. I work with a bunch of stick-in-the-muds who have no lives outside of the office. It makes team lunches and happy hours super awkward.

I need a new job.
posted by SansPoint at 6:28 AM on September 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


this is nice and all but pretty impractical for large swaths of people. kind of like doctors' advice to 'reduce stress'

anyway, guess I better start buddying up with the dude who made a literal lynching joke to improve my work output
posted by nogoodverybad at 6:41 AM on September 23, 2015 [7 favorites]


nogoodverybad: WHOA.

Anyway, my first job in college was one where I hung out with coworkers after work and it was great. But now I work in an industry where most coworkers are married and/or with kids and live in another town, so "friendship" outside of work isn't going to happen. Especially when I don't have a husband and kids. In my experience it's easier to make work friends of the same general demographics as you, especially when you don't have personal attachments. I'm aware that some coworkers are friends outside of work (mostly the ones who have left), but I'm not gonna be invited to those things and I'm fine with that. And in some cases I do not necessarily want to spend more time with people who I don't have that much in common with outside of the job either.

Also, having work friends can be a bad idea when work dramas are erupting on a frequent basis. It's probably more professional and a good idea to not have friends outside of work than to have them.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:43 AM on September 23, 2015


Instead of having friends at work, we can just talk about ourselves on the Internet. I know that's a lot safer for me.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:57 AM on September 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


You guys are my work friends. These people sharing space with me are my coworkers.
posted by Windigo at 6:59 AM on September 23, 2015 [42 favorites]


Wsit, so there's people who can turn off their "Don't want friends" attitude when they leave work? That's weird. I mean, just because I am at a party with you and my wife introduced us or we lived next to you for twenty years, I'm supposed to like you?
posted by happyroach at 7:00 AM on September 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


I will say, as a positive, how much I like working with women again. I've been temping the last month in a small office with a bunch of women, and the difference between this and the boys' club atmosphere of my last place (a trading firm) is palpable.

I haven't been here long and I'm not friends with anybody, and nobody here seems to be "friends" with each other despite working here a long time, but there's an ease of camaraderie among women that just doesn't exist in mixed groups (or especially being the lone woman in a group of men). Yesterday morning a handful of us had a big "people are such fucks" conversation when one of my coworkers came in having just been harassed by some lascivious asshat on the street. The common experience of being female together transcends age and class, and is probably close enough to a "vulnerable work friendship" to count as far as these things are concerned.
posted by phunniemee at 7:04 AM on September 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


anyway, guess I better start buddying up with the dude who made a literal lynching joke to improve my work output
posted by nogoodverybad
eponysterical
posted by lownote at 7:05 AM on September 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


This may seem an obvious point, but: employers literally have to pay people to come to work. Very, very few people have jobs that they would continue to do voluntarily if they were independently wealthy. I certainly don't. So why on Earth would I want to spend more time with co-workers than I have to? Or worse, people that I have a clear hierarchical relationship to, whether superior or inferior?

And don't even get me started on (quasi-)mandatory "happy hours" and holiday parties. I'll go to an office holiday party as soon as my employer pays me to.

The expectation that employees should be friends with one another is just a way for employers to require employees to do unpaid emotional labor. I prefer employers that give employees enough time off and financial security that they can pursue meaningful relationships outside of work, not employers that keep employees' lives so bound up in their work that they feel like they have no choice but to find emotional support among their fellow co-workers.
posted by jedicus at 7:05 AM on September 23, 2015 [23 favorites]


At my previous place of employment, a social service agency during the depths of the AIDS crisis, I met all of my closest and most wonderful friends and family. In fact, I married one of them. I've been in academia for the last 17 years and people here are not as friendly and, I suspect, since there's no crisis, we don't form the bonds we did at previous place of employment. That's ok though. I'm really happy with the friends I have.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:06 AM on September 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


I have dragged my very best friend in the whole world to...five jobs now. I cannot recommend this tactic highly enough. Get into a specialized field that works in a big corporate context and then have your best friend in the same field and sit next to one another. It makes your work life so much more tolerable.
posted by xingcat at 7:07 AM on September 23, 2015 [11 favorites]


Nanukthedog, I must correct you. Public library usage is hella up. Among rich people, it's not, but among everyone else, it's up. There are more branch libraries in the US than Mcdonald's. But to your general point about isolation, I agree.

I'm introverted and avoidant to the degree that every interaction I have becomes a desperate quest to find a reason to escape the interaction. So I usually make friends through experiences where we are mutually trapped in a place together and I really can't escape. Like work. My three best friends in the world all started as work friends...and this from a time when being myself and being friendly with coworkers could have got me fired (retail: chatting = "time theft.") Now I work in a place with no name tags and with much less actual work, and it's thrown off my whole calculation re: who can I make friends with at work, and how.
posted by blnkfrnk at 7:09 AM on September 23, 2015 [10 favorites]


I'm very introverted and find building/maintaining relationships to be extremely difficult. I also have very limited small talk ability; if the discussion turns to something I find interesting, like board games or neurology, I'll enter Lecture Mode and start holding forth on things, and otherwise I struggle to find anything to say. Both of these modes are really awkward and unpleasant for others (at least to my understanding.)

However, having *someone* to be friends with is pretty important, even if it's just someone who is willing to talk about probability theory or chemistry every now and then. For a while, my shift was such that I was at least one cubicle away from everyone and my main coworkers consisted of a couple of hardcore right-wing homeschooling Catholics (me being a leftwing atheist former public teacher) and a pair of football-woo and bitches-be-crazy-amirite dudebros. I could feel depression creeping back in every day I went in to spend 12 hours having nothing to say to anyone around me and having to actively bite my lip every time the discussion turned to topics such as "Planned Parenthood is a eugenics scheme" and "Lesbians just try to be like men, all cold and unemotional, but they're terrible at it. They should just loosen up and have more fun." (Where "fun," by the way, meant being willing to actively support this particular loudmouth's sexual interest by making out in front of or with him.)

But shift bids happen, and now there's a guy with a Batman tattoo across from me, so at least there's comics to talk about. :-)
posted by Scattercat at 7:09 AM on September 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


Some of the commenters here seem to be shocked and appalled that there are people who don't want to open up and become besties with their coworkers. I wonder if any of those people have ever felt threatened for being who they are or what they believe.

It's very easy to open up and be vulnerable when vulnerability is an illness in the family or having to spend money on the car unexpectedly. It's a different story if you live in an area where not following the dominant religion will get you ostracized at best and physically assaulted at worse. Where having a sexual orientation outside the norm could get you fired with no recourse. Where having political beliefs at odds with your boss can get you blackballed from the industry in your area.

It's not always about you -- if someone doesn't want to fill you in on all the details of their life it might be because they've been burned enough times to know better. I was fortunate enough to be able to move hundreds of miles away from where I grew up to a much more tolerant and open-minded area (and would choose starve to death before ever moving back) but those lessons have stuck with me. My friends are my friends, my coworkers are colleagues. Please don't try to force me to be friends with coworkers unless you want me to start looking for a new job.
posted by fader at 7:10 AM on September 23, 2015 [13 favorites]


jedicus And don't even get me started on (quasi-)mandatory "happy hours" and holiday parties. I'll go to an office holiday party as soon as my employer pays me to.

I go to those, mostly because free food and free booze. If they ever switched out our company parties with something that involved a cash bar, though, you bet your ass I'll find something else to do those days.
posted by SansPoint at 7:19 AM on September 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Fader, that is the kicker. Not only do I only make friends through work or school or being trapped on an elevator, but much of the time I have to work against myself to not get so close, as being a trans lefty pervert is usually something I have to hide at work. So the work friends I do have had to defeat an extra layer of my protective avoidance. I don't blame anyone for being reserved at work, since the stakes (don't want to work? Go starve!) are so high.
posted by blnkfrnk at 7:27 AM on September 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


On another axis, spending extended hours at a job can also lead to more work friendships. At the start of my career, I (foolishly) worked 11-hour days all the time, driven by the idea that I would somehow reach some kind of life-solving enlightenment by becoming a real good software developer and shipping whatever the bosses wanted us to ship. While that was bad for me in several ways, as a result of spending that much time around a set of people, I became close to them. I am still friends with a few of them. Should you do this to make friends? No. No, you should not. There's less costly ways.

This reminds me that there are many groups of people who are very close because they've gone through trauma together, like soldiers. The closeness is nice, but it comes from having suffered together, which is not.

If I was doing the work that I truly love, I would probably make more friends, because they would be people who also loved doing it. Unfortunately, none of the things I love to do pay for shit. So I do this instead. I like my coworkers, and having worked at toxic workplaces before, my bar is low. They are pleasant and say nice things to me and we chat about our kids or whatever. I have occasionally gone to a happy hour or two.

But. There are vast, vast swathes of who I am that I don't discuss at work, not due to shame, but due to the fact that I have gotten tired of the blank incomprehension or alarm such discussions create. I mean, do I really want to discuss why I not only don't see the company's goals as my guiding star, but think capitalism/the way we live now is actually sort of rotten and needs drastic reform, and why can't we just build robots to do the shit jobs and stop working so hard anyway? There is no good place for that conversation to with my quiet, law-abiding, conservative co-workers who just want to watch football on the weekends or go on cruises.
posted by emjaybee at 7:27 AM on September 23, 2015 [12 favorites]


I'm not friends with my coworkers for professional reasons.

Really -- I'm in a field where there are all kinds of Very Serious professional responsibilities and demands. Our training involved no small number of cautionary tales how those responsibilities could be breached in very simple, unexpected ways through behaviour which would be normal between people anywhere else. Generally, it's easier just to avoid those situations altogether, and not get into personal relationships in the first place. Yes, it's isolating, and probably part of the reason why we're all drinkers, but whatevs. The flip side is that being somewhat remote allows us some sorely-needed distance in our work-life balance. At five, I can walk away from it all, and start my real day.

Which is not to say that I'm not friendly with my coworkers. I'm just not friends with them, and have no intention of being. What has been said by many people here is true for me as well -- it's a forced interaction which I have no interest in extending -- but also an area of danger which I'm just not allowed to get into.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:34 AM on September 23, 2015


friendship is a horizontal relationship between equals. Relationships of this type are dangerous, because they could lead to loyalties toward each other that could supersede loyalty to the employer. In the worst case scenario, these types of relationship could lead to unionization. as such, genuine workplace friendship should be suppressed whenever possible.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 7:53 AM on September 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


Somewhat related to a topic that was previously on the Blue:
Why is it so hard to make friends when you're over 30?
posted by FJT at 7:56 AM on September 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


Referencing the article above, I would gladly make friends at my office if I had anyone I had stuff in common with. No one tells you how hard it is to make friends once you go past 30 and you have moved to another country and you have social anxiety. All the people I have mentioned in my previous comment are people I still care deeply about and are in touch with but they live 1300 miles away. I try very hard to make friends now at 38 because I get lonely and as much as my husband is the bee's knees, we tend to hang out with only each other.
posted by Kitteh at 8:03 AM on September 23, 2015 [11 favorites]


A former supervisor once advised me to just protect my own interests and screw the rest, and it's unsurprising that pretty much everyone else takes that to heart. I've been viciously back-stabbed by coworkers with whom I had built friendships with. I have not made the same mistake since.

I have learned to make an effort to be just friendly enough to get people to protect or defend me when overarching workplace drama starts to explode, and the witch hunt begins. But except under extremely rare circumstances, I trust no one I work with; I come in, work and collaborate as well as I can, and get out. But I tend to end up in places where the political dances are very complicated and with steep consequences if you screw up, so. Maybe I just have bad luck.
posted by Ashen at 8:07 AM on September 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


second what Ashen just said. I believe that the reason the work place has become this way is because everyone is too eager to backstab others or look out for themselves for any real friendships to develop in the first place.

I went through several moves growing up which really affected long-term friendship bonds for me, so later in life I thought I could start over and get some new friends from work. Big mistake. Those that I protected most fiercely when the axe was coming down were the first the throw me under the bus when I was the one made vulnerable. Perhaps so many others have witnessed similar that they automatically put a wall up that prevents any kind of real bond from being possible.
posted by rancher at 8:20 AM on September 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


I work remote 99% of the time, and when I say remote, I mean AND HOW (1,000 miles away from most of the team). I don't make friends easily at all, I don't do office politics well, and working 100% onsite can feel very trapping. So one would think that remote would be an ideal situation for me.

Well, it's not quite that easy ... when I visit the team, I feel some regret that I can't spend more time with them. And when I run into former coworkers from my old (onsite) job, it's good to see them and chat a little.

Physical presence has a value all its own whether or not I socialize with my coworkers outside of work.

In general, though, Miss Manners approves of work relationships being a bit more "formal" and thus not being that close.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 8:24 AM on September 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


What the comments remind me of is how different the social atmosphere is in various work environments. And from my experience it isn't just from company to company, but there can be huge variations between departments or units/teams.

The difference quickly becomes apparent after spending a short amount of time there and walking through the office. For those departments or teams that are chummy, I can hear genuine laughter randomly during late mornings and afternoons. Emails will circulate (from their co-workers) about birthdays, births, weddings, and other important events. They ask each other out to lunch or offer to pick something up for each other. And on rare occasions, I even see them have photos of each other hanging on their walls.

With departments that aren't so chummy, the attempt for workplace socialization is usually led by HR or sometimes the boss. Laughter is more stilted and only heard when employees are gathered for a formal company meeting or HR sanctioned socializing event. Co-workers disappear for lunch or eat alone at their desks. And maybe people will talk in generalities about meeting up, but never quite seem to have the time.

One of the advantages of working for a large organization (that is at one physical location) is the ability to make work friends that aren't in your department or team, so you aren't in competition with one another.
posted by FJT at 8:26 AM on September 23, 2015 [7 favorites]


I would agree that this varies wildly across industries but it definitely isn't completely correlated with industry stability. The instability in my particular business means that tight friendships are an incredible boon--when everyone is getting laid off all the time, it's your close friends from That Job In 2009 that get you your next gigs. The cordial-but-very-professional folks will never stick their necks out for you that way.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:27 AM on September 23, 2015


When I worked for a game development company, I had friends (and roommates) who were coworkers.

When most of those friends got laid off, and my particular division got spun off, went out of business, and was sold at the last minute to another company things changed. And when I changed jobs I really haven't made friends with anyone, though I think a few of the people here might be sort of okay.

And now basically I don't have any friends, except online ones, most of whom I haven't seen in person for years. And I'm pretty much okay with that.
posted by Foosnark at 8:29 AM on September 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


My last job had an atmosphere much like this -- and I was there to see its downfall over just a few years. It was a local government institution with a strong union, the sort of place where it was not unusual for someone to have started in high school and then retire after 40-50 years of service. And it was so, so friendly. People regularly had their families visit to show off a new baby or son-in-law, brought in extras from their gardens, sent out mass emails if they were giving away a couch. Small groups ate lunch together every day, either in the break room or out to eat. The first year, a coworker held a big rollicking bbq at her house for everyone, which was not unusual --the staff had organized events like dinner cruises together in the past.

Then in 2008 the stock market crashed and funding was cut dramatically. The state offered early retirement incentives to many folks, who all took the deal. Very few of those positions were refilled, and new management was brought in to merge many positions, thus requiring many people to work the equivalent of 2 jobs. A few other positions were eliminated and people were fired. And the new management did little to make this process easier -- in fact they largely pitted department heads against each other, forcing them to engage in very real fights with each other over funding issues.

Just a few years later, it was a completely different place. People were stressed and afraid, and everyone switched to eating lunch at their desk. They'd say hi to you but no one would really talk or stop by to chat like before, or if they did it was just to vent and complain. Some refused to even attend events like the holiday celebration (paid/held over the lunch hour), let alone volunteer to plan them. All the good employees that could leave did so, one-by-one (including me, eventually). The rest clearly stayed only to wait to hit the necessary years to their retirement, and from what I hear, turnover has switched to 2-3 years for new people moving in and out. It's amazing just how easy it is to dismantle a culture like that.
posted by veery at 8:40 AM on September 23, 2015 [15 favorites]


My previous job resulted in some of my very best friends. I loved working with them and loved doing other things with them...which was all fine except that most of them reported to me. (I do not recommend this situation, it's a hard balance and I worked extra hard to ensure that no one felt I had favorites on staff.) When we had a change in upper management, I decided to quit that job in order to keep my friends. Almost a decade later, I don't have any regrets, just great friends who are still in my life. I am not, however, going to hang out with anyone from my current job outside of work. We don't have anything in common and a few of them I can barely stand in the first place.

Part of my work-life balance commitment to myself after I quit Job With Friends was to allow myself to leave work at work. This includes leaving work people at work as well. We're quite friendly in the office, but we all have lives outside of work and we're probably all better for it.
posted by komlord at 8:43 AM on September 23, 2015


Part of my work-life balance commitment to myself after I quit Job With Friends was to allow myself to leave work at work.

I am with you there.

The company I work for has a lot of cliques and people who have formed close friendships, hang out after work, go on trips together, etc. I have ended up maintaining more of an arms length relationship where I am nice and friendly at work, but I keep work at work. I might be friends with my coworkers except that they can't seem to do that, leave work in the office, and that is the line for me between "friend" and "work friend". I have a rule that I only think about work when I'm being paid (and sometimes not even then!).
posted by selenized at 8:59 AM on September 23, 2015


I work in an office with a small population but a relatively large office space, so we're a bit spread out.

One coworker sits in the cube next to me, and we've become friends both in and out of the office - we've gone to the movies a few times, I've gone to her house for those fill-in-the-blank catalog parties, we've taken our kids to the amusement park together.

She's been out with medical issues since Memorial Day, and while I do miss her being around, it is making work easier - we usually communicated by talking over our cube wall, and sometimes it'd be really interrupting - we couldn't tell when the other person was on the phone, so we'd be chatting away and the other would be like I'M ON THE PHONE I CAN'T TALK RIGHT NOW (having someone talk to me when I'm on the phone with someone else is one of my instarage buttons).

(I also do freelance work for the company my sister works for, so I guess technically she's a coworker too. We chat online pretty much all work day, every work day.)
posted by Lucinda at 9:01 AM on September 23, 2015


Dip Flash, this: Academia is a total institution, and like other total institutions (eg police, military, prison workers, boarding schools), people tend to socialize internally, has been my work experience (military). We move constantly, but every time you get dropped in a new group--especially getting sent overseas or spending months together training or traveling away from home--we gravitate to the familiar, each other, and hang out as friends. I will say many of those friendships have relatively shallow roots, and when you move there isn't a deep connection maintaining contact. The flip side of that is that when you meet up again years later, you instantly settle back in to the friendship that was there.

I have also been very lucky in that most of the places my job has sent me have been very open to varying philosophies/lifestyles/viewpoints, honestly my experience has been that the people here are way more diverse than the military is often portrayed. Maybe a total institution lends itself towards a culture of sameness and keeping outsiders out, which isn't good, but that has not been what I have seen.

I also am slow to make real friends, those deep connections, but do okay at being friendly and kind to everyone on a work-related surface level. Perhaps in this discussion there is a distinction between true, deep friendship and friendship with a superficial bent that seems to happen more in a work environment, but does make that work environment much more enjoyable.
posted by HycoSpeed at 9:11 AM on September 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't want to be friends with my co-workers, though I'll go out of my way to be nice and friendly. It makes things more bearable that way. I've made friends through work in the past, but I never go to the Christmas party. Socialising with co-workers sounds to me like more work than actual work.

What I'd really appreciate is if bosses stopped pretending to be my "mate".

I can't say it, but: you're not my mate, mate. Stop kidding yourself.
posted by Acey at 9:14 AM on September 23, 2015


Maybe we should get over ourselves and learn to interact with our co-workers that we are awkward with, otherwise they also won't learn/maintain the ability to interact with people otherwise out of their comfort zone. Tolerance starts with adversity.

yeah that probably would've worked real well with the white lady who thought it was okay to make fun of poor alcoholic indians on reservations/immigrants/ESL people's accents in front of me and other PoC, or the 48 year old woman who thought it was just fine to call things "retarded" as though even kindergarteners don't know better. gosh why am i so darn unfriendly.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:32 AM on September 23, 2015 [11 favorites]


otherwise they also won't learn/maintain the ability to interact with people otherwise out of their comfort zone

Yeah, it's not my job to help people learn how to interact with people not like themselves.
posted by Beti at 9:38 AM on September 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


During my last four jobs, I've had very good outside-work friends at two, and good within-work friends at two. Which is great, but it causes me problems, in that when my work friends get treated unfairly by management (something that always happens sooner or later), I wind up unhappy even if I'm being treated just fine. That sort of thing led directly to me quitting two of the four jobs, and it was a contributing factor in a third. (The fourth went out of business before I could ragequit it.)

And of course none of the friendships survived without the regular work-related interactions on which they were built, so now I have neither a job nor friends.
posted by Spathe Cadet at 9:42 AM on September 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


My husband had a Civil Service job for many years before he was hired as a senior management consultant in the private sector.

He told me the new work environment was super snipey and bullying but I didn't really get it until we went to his first big company Christmas party at a downtown hotel.

I was shocked by the cruel digs and barbs being thrown around among his co-workers all night even with the wives present - at a Christmas party no less. Ugh!
posted by Tullyogallaghan at 10:11 AM on September 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


The expectation that employees should be friends with one another is just a way for employers to require employees to do unpaid emotional labor.

That's true and a good counterpoint. Comparing this to other comments that point out that some employers kind of discourage people from making friends as that may lead to forming a union, split loyalties, and loss of productivity, I think it's very well possible that though a company or HR may try to create a certain social environment at work by setting and enacting policies, other factors like economic/employment forces, individual manager styles, and staff personalities probably are a greater factor. This is assuming that the company/HR even has a plan. Some may just be making it up as they go along.

Also, on a different topic. This is hard to express, but I think there's definitely a certain view of friendship that people have. Kind of like ideal romantic relationships that just "happen" naturally, there's probably an ideal view of how and where you want to meet friends, what kind of people they are, and how you interact with them. The workplace muddles this, injecting competition, quid pro quo, professional hierarchies, and social engineering HR departments into the mix. So, even if you and another person get past that (and from the comments here, that's getting more rare), I think for some there's always going to be the nagging question "Are we actually friends because we like each other or because of convenience?"
posted by FJT at 10:14 AM on September 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


Seriously Bill, no I don't want to see upteen sports/bro videos. You have a limit of one of those per week, which a I will quietly laugh about and we can talk about anywhere from 10 seconds to 2 minutes. But I really need those goddamn files that you're supposed to be giving me as PART OF YOUR GODDAMN JOB.

If you're making my work life difficult, I see no need for us to hang out personally. Those files, please?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:21 AM on September 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm also a little skeptical of the claim that our parents had more work friends that we do. That's not my experience at all (and I recognize the irony here - my anecdote does not equal facts either). Was there any supporting evidence for this that I missed? If anything, I'd have guessed that previous generations of middle class Americans made friends in their neighborhoods or churches, not their workplaces.
posted by Beti at 10:27 AM on September 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


> If anything, I'd have guessed that previous generations of middle class Americans made friends in their neighborhoods or churches, not their workplaces

And did the men make friends at all?
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:39 AM on September 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


My current office culture is soooo grim and humorless. Attempts at conversation go exactly nowhere. I am the only non-IT person in an IT department; I don't know if that has anything to do with it. It would be great to have at least one Moss-like person, but no such luck.

My last office had a lot of Mefi-esque types and that was a blast. I wish I could find that again.
posted by medeine at 10:41 AM on September 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I got some pretty good advice once from someone that said if you don't like your co-workers and don't consider them your intellectual equals you are probably in the wrong profession. I wish I took it to heart...
posted by any major dude at 10:46 AM on September 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


The gig economy means that while I'm happy to be friendly and occasionally chatty while doing my work, if the office environment lends itself to that, I'm probably not going to be actual friends with people where I see them for a few days every few months, or possibly never again. I'm pretty sure most of my cohort that are bounced between offices the same way feel similarly.

The one time I had a long term office gig, I was already friends with one employee, one lives way on the other side of town, although we've stayed in touch a bit, and the Eeyore of the office made me grind my teeth to dust.
posted by tautological at 10:56 AM on September 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I skipped the last company social part unstated retirement party for Someone precisely because my co-workers are particularly noxious. I understand now that I probably would have an entire etiquette failures book now if I'd stayed to witness the traveling disaster that was.
posted by tilde at 11:24 AM on September 23, 2015


Setting aside the really irritating framing of this article ("Americans spend a lot of time at work and take less than half the time off they're eligible for, so clearly the solution to happiness is to stop trying to have a personal life and make friends at work so you're happier about being there all the time!") I think making good friends at work is mostly luck of the draw. I've waxed nostalgic here before about the couple of years I spent working at a movie theater, and a big part of that was what good friends a lot of our crew became both at work and outside of work. I'm on the wrong side of the country from a lot of the workplace friends I made in my 20s, but have kept in touch with a lot of them through social media have little doubt I'd still be hanging out with them if geography allowed.

On the other hand I've had good jobs where I had perfectly cordial relationships with coworkers who I never once went out for drinks with, with whom I've fallen completely out of touch.
posted by usonian at 11:29 AM on September 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


The one time I had a long term office gig, I was already friends with

Forgive me for reading that as "The one time I had a long term office pig I was already friends with". I guess swine11 is still on my mind.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 11:49 AM on September 23, 2015


Yes, the culture has definitely changed in the past couple of generations. Mostly because internet, but there are other factors. Like for example, the fact that one co-worker lives an hour from me in one direction, and another co-worker lives an hour in the other direction. (It seems like every book I've read with a setting up to the 1990s, everyone lives five minutes from each other.) Then there's two-parent working households, overscheduled kids, fewer people doing more work and therefore more stress and competition...well, we're never going back to dem good old days.

As a single woman, I would like to socialize more outside of work. Perhaps I'll be invited to a couple's house (everyone is married at my office) and they'll say hey! I know a cousin you should meet! But that'll never happen, for all the reasons stated above.
posted by Melismata at 12:16 PM on September 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


WHY WE SHOULD STOP TRYING TO KEEP WORK AND LIFE SEPARATE

This article is ruling class propaganda.
posted by bukvich at 12:28 PM on September 23, 2015 [11 favorites]


The expectation that employees should be friends with one another is just a way for employers to require employees to do unpaid emotional labor.

True. But conversely, voluntarily befriending your coworkers is how you build trust and solidarity with them, and that's an essential part of building up your collective defences for the next time your boss tries to fuck you over.
posted by Gerald Bostock at 12:30 PM on September 23, 2015


Every year, a vocal minority of people at my job torpedo any suggestion of having an after-hours Holiday Party because they don't want to socialize with co-workers after 5pm. (It's not just parents with sitter issues - most of them actually want to go out.) As a result, we end up with lunch events at juvenile places that are open at 11am (D&B, bowling alley, etc) while my friends at other workplaces have elegant and grown-up dinner events at nice restaurants. By the way, most of our vocal minority end up skipping the lunch event that we chose with their concerns in mind. It's irritating.

I have no beef with co-workers who don't want to socialize after work hours. Go home. Have fun! But don't resent or try to derail the others who do go out and have a beer after work and enjoy each other's company.
posted by kimberussell at 12:45 PM on September 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


I work with a bunch of stick-in-the-muds who have no lives outside of the office. It makes team lunches and happy hours super awkward.

Have you ever really thought about why some people don't have great lives outside of work? I'm sorry that my Leaning In is such a buzzkill for you, but I know who I am and what my place in the world is, and keeping my career alive means that I need to pour a bit more into my job than some of my Golden Children peers do.

I'm no stick-in-the-mud, and I've enjoyed being friends with my colleagues in the past, but a long work week combined with needing time to decompress from the constant worry of Oh Noes Am I Being A Good Professional Right Now means that I don't have a lot of great stories about my weekends. I wish I had a healthier work-life balance, but I imagine that it won't really improve until I start to feel more comfortable in my professional skin - that's been harder for me to come by than it is for some others because of Reasons. And yeah, it makes me less interesting and less fun and means that no one gravitates to me anymore because I'm this boring chubby [insert racial or ethnic epithet here] bitch. But maybe, just maybe, that's more of my problem than it is yours.
posted by blerghamot at 1:06 PM on September 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


I can remember my father having exactly one friend in his office. And my mother had maybe one as well. (Then again, we are an antisocial family, ngl.)

The guys in my office are great and we have delightful small talk ('I'm thinking of going to see x movie this weekend' / 'sounds great') and that's more than enough for me. And for everyone else. It's an office of 4 people. And we're hidden away from the rest of the institution. We like being anti-social, damnit.
posted by sperose at 1:23 PM on September 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


And yeah, it makes me less interesting and less fun and means that no one gravitates to me anymore because I'm this boring chubby [insert racial or ethnic epithet here] bitch.

Just thinking to what my experience and I don't know totally about your situation, but want to just suggest an alternate interpretation. People might not want to befriend you not because they think you're not interesting, but because you working harder and being more professional means you are competition. If you work harder, they have to work harder to not look bad. And if you work harder and are gunning for a good position or promotion, it may be awkward to be friends with their future superior or even boss. I mean, this is totally not your fault at all, but I've seen situations like this happen before.
posted by FJT at 2:33 PM on September 23, 2015


I became decent friends with someone at work. One day, because Reasons, 80% of her department was laid off, and this included her. I enjoyed her company while she was here; we joked about being brain-twins but in different departments. I don't have the mental wherewithal to use Facebook to keep up with people, though, so that emotional investment just... vanished.

For me, it's also that I'm closeted about some aspects of my life, and so I put a bit of effort into maintaining my work face. (Why of course I'm a monogamous lesbian woman with unknown religious-type beliefs! Why not!) This makes it difficult to relax enough to be friends with folk at work, since I am effectively never myself.
posted by XtinaS at 2:56 PM on September 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't need to be friends with my coworkers, but I'd love it if some of them weren't actively hostile to me.
posted by Biblio at 3:27 PM on September 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Company culture can be really important--one of the places I worked at was full of like-minded people, so much so that even though the company hasn't existed for years, I still see a lot of them weekly and we hang out all the time.

I understand the "Grarrr quit socializing" thing if it interferes with people getting their work done, but the last time I checked we weren't all robots—a little conversation that's not about the minutiae of the job is welcome to break up the day. I'd much rather work in a place where people share some commonalities and goals, but I realize this is not terribly common in most workplaces.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 3:57 PM on September 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


I've been underemployed for awhile. If "making friends" is, like, a job requirement, I'll be happy to give it a go, for the right job. But frankly I've been having a blast with my non-job-related awesome friends.
posted by Cookiebastard at 4:15 PM on September 23, 2015


"But as soon as I was made redundant I was persona non grata."

When your primary association with them is work, and you have been excluded from that work, it makes it super awkward to remain friends with someone after that. Your #1 thing that you have in common and talked about most of the time is suddenly a super awkward sore spot at best, definitely something to remind you of and make you feel like shit about at worst. Probably at least someone similar to "couple friends" breaking up after one couple gets divorced, or "mom friends" suddenly having whopping awkwardness if someone's child died. If your core connection is cut painfully like that...hell, nobody knows what to do any more.

I can't say I'm surprised at that happening to you (it's happened to me too), but I can understand why.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:51 PM on September 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Reading most of the comments here leaves me shaking my head. I've almost always worked with friends, and made new friends at work, and it's made my life so much better in every way. I do understand that some people have to tolerate dismal environments. But if you have the option,why not spend your workday among people who make you happy?
posted by tangerine at 11:26 PM on September 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think it's very dependent on age. In my "close friends" list on Facebook, exactly half (5) of them are people I met through work.

But looking at that list now, I realise I met all of them at least 15 years ago.

Having said that, I *almost* struck up a new proper friendship with a colleague last year, but then he and his wife went and had a baby - and I have neither a wife nor a baby - and I moved interstate.
posted by Diag at 3:39 AM on September 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


There seems to be a pretty bright line between people here who work in cube farms or for giant corporations, and people who work for small businesses, or in creative environments. The best, most enduring friendships I have post-school are all with wonderful people I met working in restaurants as a cook, or in a T-shirt shop. Even owning my own business, a good number of my ex-employees I still count as good, close fiends. I think there's more of a "we're in it together" attitude when you've got a total of 10 or 15 people tying to keep a leaky ship afloat.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:41 AM on September 24, 2015 [4 favorites]


a good number of my ex-employees I still count as good, close fiends

Awesome!
posted by Melismata at 7:37 AM on September 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


lollusc: I was thinking about how my experience in academia has been that everyone only seems to have friends from work and it's almost rare to be close to people who you don't work with. And my off-hand explanation for that was the mobility and insecurity of academic jobs.

Interesting, I was actually going to say that academia is one of the last holdouts from the era of being at one job/place your whole life. So many academics I know do move early in their careers, but once they find a tenure-track position, they stay - and seem to happily (or resignedly) talk about spending the next 30 years with the same people.
posted by ashworth at 8:26 AM on September 24, 2015


But if you have the option,why not spend your workday among people who make you happy?

I wish I had this option right now, but I'm clinging tenaciously to my steady full-time job where I haven't had a raise in eight years and have had my benefits cut cut cut because I'm almost done with grad school and can then embark on a career change. Realizing at 35 that your passion career is actually quicksand is a rude awakening. If my 13 years in my dream field have taught me anything, it's that I would rather be paid my worth in a job I don't care about while working with whoever in order to be unworried about paying bills so I can actually enjoy my non-work time. (Clearly this isn't the ideal, but god, I need to have some kind of baseline expectation after escaping this career bog.)
posted by komlord at 9:17 AM on September 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


There seems to be a pretty bright line between people here who work in cube farms or for giant corporations, and people who work for small businesses, or in creative environments.

I feel like I keep wading into these discussions to be Mr. Fed, but there is something to be said for a work environment where work-life balance is encouraged, job security is a virtue, and (if you work for an agency whose mission lines up with your interests/ethics, as I currently* do) many** of your coworkers have a political orientation/outlook compatible with your own. In some ways the giant cube farm model predominates, but I actually like our (infrequent) happy hours and other get-togethers.

I will say this, though: I've learned that sometimes going from friends to coworkers with someone means you mayyyyy not really want to be friends anymore.

*I have stories aplenty of my previous (government) employer, which seemed filled with people who distrusted the very idea of public service, a dissonance I can't even fathom.
**by no means all, but many!
posted by psoas at 2:37 PM on September 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


So many academics I know do move early in their careers, but once they find a tenure-track position, they stay

Yeah, okay, maybe that is true in America. In Australia there's not really such a thing as tenure anymore. And even in other countries, my understanding was that there are vastly more academics employed nowadays on shorter term contracts and soft money than in tenure-track roles. But even so, I would wager we learn the necessity of making friends at work in those early years of the itinerant career and ridiculously long hours, and then we just keep on with that pattern automatically even if it stops being the only possible way to make friends.
posted by lollusc at 6:02 PM on September 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


Man, reading some of these comments makes me feel all warm and fuzzy about my coworkers. I've had drinks with many of them, and most of us are at least Facebook friends. I'm a librarian though, so we're all government employees with a little more job security than in the private sector, and we all have enough in common that it's easy to bond. I'm still friends with some of the people from my last library job that I left 8 years ago, too. TL;DR if you want to be pals with your coworkers, become a librarian! I mean, if you can find a job...
posted by rabbitrabbit at 6:35 PM on September 24, 2015


Right now I am in a job where I really respect my colleagues. I never want to be friends with any of them. In my line of work, respect really matters - and the people that I befriended at work, in the past, well - I respected them as colleagues, but once I got to know them? Man. Most of them really were were awful motherfuckers. And the way they behaved in life outside of work made me lose all respect for them. They were bad people; they were codependent; they took advantage of me. I played a role, no doubt: I had bad boundaries. But letting people from work into my life seriously messed with both my home life and my work life.

Now, I've gotten a lot better with boundaries. I don't have friends like that inside of work or outside of work. But I still don't want to get involved on any emotional level with anyone in the office ever again, other than feeling good when good things happen to them at work. No thanks. There are a lot of bad people out there. Some of them are undoubtedly at work.
posted by sockermom at 8:00 PM on September 24, 2015


« Older The only thing I don't want to do is to raise the...   |   Yogi Berra (1925-2015) Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments