Friending on the Job

I have two friends starting new jobs this week, and today I heard of another one who just scored an offer.

The first week in a new office is at once an exciting and terrifying thing. You’re the new kid in school. Sure, you’ll know everything about these people eventually—what they eat for lunch, which dentist they go to, what instrument they played in high school marching band—but for now you’re just trying to remember names. And, more importantly, get them to remember yours.

We spend approximately 40 hours a week with our coworkers. That’s a lot of time to feel lonely if you don’t connect to anyone in your office. In fact, research has found that when Americans are asked to choose between having a best friend at work and a 10% raise, friendship wins out easily.

I’ve made close friends in all the jobs I’ve held. But it took time. Upon arrival at each office I was so eager to establish friendships immediately that I most definitely was the awkward girl trying to weasel my way into social circles. As I write this, I’m cringing at the memory of attempting to befriend someone at my very first full-time job, and it was totally one of those trying too hard situations.

“Hey, so, um, watcha working on?”

And then I proceeded to tell her my whole life story because, you know, why not.

Not that she’d asked.

So my advice for my new worker bee friends is as follows:

First, make yourself visible. You want your new colleagues to remember you’re there, so they invite you to lunch and include you on a group project. In the office especially, people are so wrapped up in their own lives that out of sight really is out of mind.

Second, don’t insert yourself for no reason. Though you want to be visible, you don’t want to be intrusive. Jumping in others people’s conversations—“Hey guys whatcha talking about?” (not that you’d do that)—screams Andy Bernard.

Thirdly, do your job, do it well enough, and relax. As long as you’re not burning down the office or forcing anyone to stay late, you’ll make friends eventually. Taking the relationship out of the office takes time, but for now you just need an on-the-clock friend—someone you can recap Modern Family or your weekend with. She may not be a BFF (yet) but that relationship is equally as valuable.

Remember being the new guy at work? Any tricks for establishing workplace friendships? Anyone think the office and friendship shouldn’t mix?

4 Comments

Filed under The Search

4 responses to “Friending on the Job

  1. I hate the new guy feeling… I usually try to keep a low profile initially and just make sure I am coming off as friendly. I worked at company where you were expected to set up a coffee date with a new employee when they started so you could get to know them/help them feel welcomed. So that was nice.

    Now that I am older, I don’t really try to cultivate friendships in the office like I used to… But many of the friends I have now are people I met at work when I was in my early 20s, so there was a point where I did try to develop relationships…

  2. Cat

    This couldn’t have come at a better time. I just started a new job last week and came home tonight whining about how I’m the awkward girl and nobody is going to like me. I always try to hard, and come off as someone completely different than who I really am, then get those weird, “what is she talking about” kind of looks. Ugh.

  3. Awww…this was so nice to read today! I appreciate the advice. Last week was my first week (which you totally knew, obv) and I tend to accidentally become the “mousy quiet girl” when I first start a job, so I vowed not to be that this time. So far it is going okay. But people at the new gig are super nice but super busy and to themselves, so it will be a while before I get into any social circles for sure. I definitely feel like a Nard Dog when I am too pushy on new friends, though, so I gotta walk the tightrope of open and inviting and not creepy and nosy.
    Thanks for the post!

  4. One of my co-workers invited me out to lunch on my first day. It was a pleasant surprise and really made me feel welcome. I think friendship with co-workers is fine and can even increase productivity but there should be some boundaries. For example: there are certain topics that you should not talk about at work. Also, if you are experiencing conflict with a friend/co-worker you can’t let that interfere with your job.

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