Creating a Positive Friendship Culture at the Workplace

Today, we spend more time at work than ever before.  According to The 2012 National Study on Balancing Work and Caregiving in Canada conducted by Carleton University and the University of Western Ontario, employees spend approximately 50 hrs in work related activities per week. 

Naturally, work relationships and friendships form.  Just like friendships outside of the workplace, these relationships require healthy boundaries.  Unlike outside friendships, these relationships can have real consequences for your work life and career if not handled with care.

On the positive side, friendships at work can:

  • Create a healthy and supportive working environment.
  • Encourage creative thinking when problem solving.
  • Provide an opportunity to vent frustrations to reduce stress.
  • Develop empathy, decreasing the chance of misunderstanding or conflict.

On the negative side friendships at work can also:

  • Make a difficult decision more complicated.
  • Encourage and enable an unacceptable behavior.
  • Lead to distractions which affect productivity.
  • Steer to perceptions of favoritism or preferential treatment, especially if the friendship is with a supervisor.
  • Create distinct separation from others.

Here are four guidelines to create a positive friendship culture at work:

Create boundaries

Ask friends at work to keep personal information that you share with them confidential and private. This helps remind the other person of their responsibility in the friendship.   We need to feel safe in what we share with our friends at work.

Align with workplace policies and core values

Review your workplace policies in regards to workplace bullying, harassment, and inter-personal relationships at work.  Check in with your organizations core values.  For example, if professionalism is a core value ask yourself “Does my behavior demonstrate professional, respectful friendships in this organization?”.

Identify when talk becomes gossip

Water-cooler chatter is one thing, but when the talk turns personal it can become gossip. Gossip can quickly erode workplace morale and even jeopardize your job.  Start a practice in your friendship at work to break gossip habits by recognizing when participating in gossip becomes destructive.

Hold each other accountable

Be courageous in your friendship and tell each other what behavior needs to change so that it doesn’t interfere with work performance.  The last thing that you want is for your friendship at work to affect your productivity, or worse, have the potential for the employer to implement progressive discipline including termination.  

There is work to be done when you have friendships at work.  Do what you can so that you will not only maintain productivity at work and your jjob but also a friendship that may last a lifetime.   


If you need to implement practices to create positive friendships at the workplace, I’m your girl!  Please contact me, as my first 30 minute consult is free.