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Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Should You Ever Make Friends At Work?

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As a writer inspiration is everywhere. You draw it from your experiences, other people or just simply walking the earth and opening your eyes. Today’s inspiration comes from an article I read in this week’s Grazia magazine entitled ‘Should you ever make friends at work?’ The second I’d finished reading it I shared with my colleagues which kind of sets me up as to which camp I sit in right?

Before I got into the fashion industry, I’d watched that much Devil Wears Prada to have me believe that friends and fashion do not mix. So when I started my current role, that was my mind set - I’d go to work, do my hours and then leave. My friends were just my friends outside of work, I spoke to my colleagues but come 6pm my work life switched off and my personal life back on again. I’m not saying that’s a bad way to live, because for some people that’s what they want out of a job, and that works for them - and that’s fine.

I always remember my first work social gathering. I remember it because I was so scared and intimated by the people that I left after about 20 minutes to hurry back to the comfort and familiarity of the life I knew with the people I was used to. I’ll just put it out there - the people were fine and not scary in the slightest but I was ‘fresh meat’ so to speak so chickened out of life I guess.

Only now, three years on do I think I’ve had enough experiences to reflect on the person I was then and who I am now. I can’t even pinpoint at what point did I go from ‘having colleagues’ to calling them my friends instead, but it happened.

I completely get the other side of the argument. Is my working life affected by my personal relationships at work? Of course. If I see my colleague (I’ll revert back to the use of the ‘C’ word for the purpose of this piece) crying or struggling, I’m not going to sit there and watch whilst I file my report in on time just so I can get ahead. Or not show them how to do something because I want to be better than them. Unfortunately that streak isn’t in me and in some ways that does make me weak and more of a target, but do I feel like a better person for it? Hell yes.

As for the ‘P’ word, I do feel it’s something that can affect work friendships - if as the article lists - you go for the same promotion. Because whilst you feel like your friend is amazing, phenomenal, talented and all of the other adjectives as a friend you see in her/him, not getting something you feel you’ve worked for can be crushing. I haven’t had massive amounts of experience in this but I’d hope it’s something that would never pull apart the relationships I’ve built up.
Am I less productive because I work with my friends? Yes and no, and I hope if my bosses ever read this I’m not walked out and fired. I still work my arse off but I am more inclined to stop a project to help a friend whether that’s a spreadsheet, helping with luggage or just giving them a five minute pep talk before heading into a presentation. Because what I like to believe, is that by lifting them, it not only helps the team, but the department and on a wider scale - the company. I hope that by working better as a unit and not to constantly strive to be better than each other, we achieve more. We’re all working to better the company and the same end goal, so strength in numbers I don’t see as a bad thing.

Do I stay in my job because of my friends? Again yes and no. I know from not putting as much time into making friends in the first year that I’m here for more than just the people. But take them away now, would I be as happy? No. And that does worry me slightly, as I know deep down I shouldn’t invest as much time, energy and emotion into relationships that aren’t going to be around me forever but it’s kind of too late. One of my closest colleagues recently left the business and I joked in my card to her how in some ways I wished we’d never got as close as we are now because watching her leave (literally - I watched her walk out of the door) killed me. From that knowing look across the bank of desks to in-jokes, chats, support and just being there - it hurt (and still hurts) to see her go.

You spend the majority of your life at work. You see your colleagues more than you do your partner and family and friends outside of work, so yes I may be weaker for caring, weaker for feeling all the feelings and weaker for turning my colleagues into some of my closest friends but I’d choose that over an emotionless environment.

By being close to my colleagues I’ve learnt so much from them both professionally and personally. They’ve shaped who I am, educated me and made me stronger and a much more confident version of myself compared to who I was in 2012. And I wouldn’t have got that by refusing to bring them into the work friend zone.

I could die tomorrow and to be honest I’d choose friendships and unforgettable memories over an amazingly paid job with just colleagues that I didn’t care for. Because what I’ve learnt from them and the life I’ve experienced alongside them and their presence - that’s priceless.


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