When discussing friendships among my peers, one of the most frequent issues people wish to address is if they should make friends with colleagues, and if so… how to take it out of the office.
I can tell you from my own experience what I loved most about working was the social aspect. I really felt as though these people were my friends and although I never saw them outside of the office, spending a consistent 40 hours a week with them made us feel pretty close. Because we spent so much time together in the work environment it didn’t feel necessary to spend time with these friends outside of work much. Our limited evening and weekend time was spent on partners, family and friends on whom we did not spend so many hours as we did with each other. Makes sense, yeah?
Except, then I got pregnant, and I left the workplace to have a baby. My work friends came to the baby shower and many of them visited in the hospital to meet my firstborn. It didn’t take too long though before I noticed the distance. I did consider these people friends and I did think they felt the same, so I took the baby to visit at the office a few times and arranged some group gatherings outside of work too. People came. A great time was had by all. All of them that is. I never noticed when we worked together how much of our conversations were about work and the office politics. As they discussed new people I didn’t know, policies I was unfamiliar with and laughed about funny office happenings that I missed; I realised while I was welcome there, I didn’t belong any more.
When my employment ended, so did many of my friendships there. Looking back I can see that I should have been better prepared for this. I should have spent more time investing in making these people friends on a personal level. And I should have spent time with them individually more instead of always in group settings. It’s not fair to say they didn’t miss me, but I missed them more, because they still had each other.
It would not have been hard to make these people real friends that lasted past my employment. They were great people. One of them did keep in touch and I married him! Lol All I had to do was invite them, individually for a drink after work, or for a Saturday lunch. Talk to them more about life OUTSIDE of the office.
The reasons I didn’t may resonate with you – I didn’t want to burden them by asking for more time. I didn’t want to embarrass myself by seeming like I didn’t have other friends. I didn’t want to try and be cronies if they strictly only wanted to stay colleagues. I didn’t want to seem more invested. I didn’t want work to become weird if the friendship had issues. I wanted someone else to make the first move! But mostly I never thought about how happy these people made me and how much I would miss them.
Really though, who doesn’t like being approached for friendship? Who really thinks “what a loser asking me to be friends?” (And if they do, they are not the kind of people you want to be friends with anyway!) Most people feel happy you like them, and as a trick of psychology they like you back for your good taste! Lol
So if you want to make cronies out of colleagues......
Start small. Share some personal information and see if they willingly reciprocate. Remember to ask about the small details, like how the party they hosted on the weekend went. Give them your personal number and say “call me later if you need or want to” assuming the opportunity arises. If they discuss a movie or restaurant, just mention you should check it out together. If they agree, set a time straight away. In groups is fine, as long as you are getting to know all these people individually while you spend time together. Show an interest and cement a connection outside of work. Direct conversations away from the office by saying “we don’t need to waste time worrying about work now, let’s just have fun tonight.” Friend them on social media.
I can’t guarantee any of this will work, but if it is important to you then you have nothing to lose by trying.
A few things to remember if it doesn’t work out are that people often have completely separate office and home personalities, so you might be disappointed, shocked or confused and feel like you actually don’t know or like this person as much as you thought or they may feel that way about you.
Alternatively they may have a full and busy social life and responsibilities already outside of the office and are happy to keep it in business hours. It’s not personal. Honestly. Try someone else.
The best way to make a colleague a friend is to simply show an interest and ask for some time. See how it goes. You might be glad you did which is better than regretting that you didn’t. Trust me on that one!
Your Best Friend ForNever