Awesomeness of the Friend Variety

About a year ago I returned from a vacation that will go down in the books as the best vacation of my life. How do I know this when I am all of 28? Because it was just that good.

The craziest part of said vacation? I was surrounded by coworkers. And if my work friends hadn’t become real-life friends before we left, by the time we got back the deal had been sealed.

I just logged onto my computer to write a blog about an entirely different topic (tune in next week!), but before settling into posting I, in typical form, checked my Google reader. One of my favorite blogs, 1000 Awesome Things, is “a time-ticking countdown of 1000 awesome things.” Stuff like using milk instead of water, guilty pleasure songs, and broccoflower. (There’s a book too.) Today’s post—the 465th awesome thing—is about when a work friend becomes an outside-of-work friend.

Author Neil Pasricha writes “Cracking jokes by the copier, swapping stories on the line, laughing in the lunchroom, you found a friend between policies, procedures, and paperwork. When you got together you started noticing you were just you, just hanging out, just laughing about your day.  Then one day your friendship zoomed to a new level…Yes, you turned a work friend into an outside-of-work friend, baby.”

The other day I mentioned that as I get further into my search, I’m hyper aware of each bit of headway. My most favorite sign of blossoming friendship is that moment when you go from introducing someone as a “work friend” to just a “friend.” For me it always happens in the moment: “This is my work friend—well actually just my friend—Brooke.” It’s a nice verbal acknowledgment that the relationship is more than the office that conceived it. (Sort of like when Matt stopped calling me his friend and started with girlfriend. These are moments I notice. No need to pretend otherwise.)

So today, when most of my now outside-of-work friends are actually out of work (like, out of the office, not sans job. Thankfully), I will agree with Mr. Pasricha. They are pretty awesome.

Have you turned work friends into outside-of-work friends? And—here’s the big question—once you left the job, did the friends remain? I’ve heard both: stories of these friendships getting stronger once the office politics were no longer involved, and tales of friendships fading once the common work bond disappeared. (Oh, and I’ve even got tips for turning office friends into real-life ones. How’s that for service?)

14 Comments

Filed under The Search

14 responses to “Awesomeness of the Friend Variety

  1. gail

    just yesterday i had lunch with a friend i met at work……..38 years ago!! need i say more.

  2. Karen A.

    I have several friends that I met at work, but the friendship is cultivated away from the work place, including some who have moved to different companies or professions. My work friendships that survive outside of work are all based on shared interests (art, music, handcrafts) that have nothing to do with work. Work is where we met, but outside is where we have friendship.

  3. Ha! I thought of you when I read that on 1000 Awesome Things this morning! For a long time, my only friends were work friends because I moved around a lot for my job. Now that I work for myself, my friends are a random assortment of people. I love both!

  4. When I started my job, I made a great group of friends, who then introduced me to some of their friends outside of work. This became my social network since I was new to town, so I definitely value work friends! I’m the only one left at our job (most of my friends left 4-5 years ago), but I do still keep in touch with 2 of those old work friends. The rest definitely couldn’t be maintained without having work in common, and I wasn’t really surprised by that either. Some work friends are out-of-work friends, and some, not so much. But they all make coming into the office all that much easier.

    I’ve been trying to find new work friends, but it’s kind of hard. My old friends and I all started working here at the same time and went through training and orientation together, so it was just easy. Without that cohort, it’s just as awkward to make work friends as it is to make non-work friends.

    I do have a work friend prospect though – I work in the ‘burbs and take a train and bus to the office, and there’s a girl who has the same commute that I chat with from time to time. Definitely friend potential. We’ve gotten to the step of – god this is lame – friending each other on our company social networking page, but I don’t know where to go from there. Maybe I’ll employ some of your tips🙂

    • Ooh, I’ve come to like these kinds of challenges… I know it feels lame to type it out and have a straightforward conversation about it, but I really think these kinds of “where to go from there” questions are universal and legit. Maybe the next step is grabbing work lunch and/or after-work drink before/after your mutual commute?

  5. I had work friends in New York who became friends, but our move out west put a bit of a damper on most of those friendships. It’s hard to maintain a cross-country friendship with folks who aren’t your besties, you know?
    My current workplace? Not so much–I’m very much the outsider, either being to young for the rest of the managers or too much of the boss for the younger employees. I’ve resigned myself to that fact, but it does make the workday a little less interesting.

  6. I have made quite a few friends at work. I left the division I now work in about 3 years ago, but kept in touch with many people. So it was nice to return in April because it was sort of like ‘coming home’ in a way. If a friendship at work can stand the test of not seeing each other every day, that’s when you know it was a true friendship. When we didn’t work together, we didnt’ see as much of each other, but we still exchanged emails and got together for the occasional happy hour.

  7. Thanks Rachel for sharing this wonderful blog post. I find it can be hard at times because we’re all trying to be professional at times.

    I remember one time I shared something vulnerable with another manager and she ended up using it to burn me which is unfortunate. I think that’s why at times it can be hard to make friends at work if the proper work culture isn’t set up for that.

    But I do remember the first time that my staff and I all hung out and had Korean food and started talking about our love lives. Truly friends at work that become our good friends later on become the next best thing. They become our second family. After all 8 hours a day gives a lot of time to chat if it’s a hospitality job.

  8. Hi I found you via Lemondrop and loved your article. I moved to Calgary from England (via Japan) to be with my boyfriend and am finding it difficult to make new friends. I’m unable to work until I have the right visa so it’s even more difficult to meet new people and this city is only accessible by car. Hopefully with patience it won’t take too long in making new friends!

  9. Ana

    Hmmm. This is one I’ve had to re-evaluate lately. The environment I work in makes it really really easy to chit-chat the day away, and I’ve ended making some pretty good friends—given life situations, we don’t always meet up on the weekends or even after work, but still there are people I can go grab a coffee or lunch with and talk over problems or mostly just laugh with. However, I am now in a position where I am more “in charge” of some people. Great for my career, of course. However, some of the people who I am supposed to “manage”, I consider my friends, so its very very difficult to be firm about deadlines when I know their kid is sick and their husband is out of town and hard to enforce work duties when we had all planned the birthday lunch weeks ago…And of course, as new people come in who don’t already know me, I won’t be looked at the same way. I may no longer be welcome at happy hours and lunches if I’m perceived to be “the boss”.
    I guess the point of all this is to say, work friends are great, but you do have to remember that it is work, and awkward situations could arise down the road. Maybe its better to make friends with those whose work ISN”T so intimately entwined with your own, like in a different department or different project. Or if workers are more independent, as it seems in your situation Rachel.
    I’m still trying to figure out how to best navigate this situation….

  10. Hi Rachel!

    Oh, I love this post (although I seem to keep finding myself saying that). I teach at a private school where most of the teachers are older than me, but I’ve been so lucky in my two years at the school to actually make TWO friends at work. One is definitely not a “work-friend” and one is slowly moving from “work-friend” to “friend”. I LOVE the distinction that you make and remember when my friend first called me her “friend” and not her “work-friend”.

    Yay! Thanks for such a great post!

  11. Lee

    Many of the friends that I have now started out as co-workers; some I’ve known for 10 years. I think that’s actually where I’m best at finding friends. I found that shared interests discussed at work (sports, art, music, books), led to going to happy hours or games, or concerts after work. It’s a little more difficult to make friends at my new job now; I have a farther commute than most. But there is a car pool made up of a few coworkers who live near me, so I think I am going to join that, since who knows where the conversations will lead?

  12. Samantha

    Your blog is wonderful! Last year I started a graduate program out east. What made it worse was I didn’t know anyone. At first I had a hard time meeting people…it’s getting a lot better, but this will be so helpful!

    In light of this post, I also have to share this story. When I started my grad program, I wasn’t meeting many people so my mom encouraged me to get a job on campus. I finally found one mid-October, in an office full of women. When I started working, I was immediately told I HAD to meet Beth, the graduate assistant working in the next office. She was also having problems meeting people, and the office women thought we could be friends. Basically, we were set up on a “friend date”, but I don’t think either of us realized at the time. It was just like something out of a movie. We were introduced, and work in the office seemed to stop. The only thing that mattered was our conversation, and the women were going to make sure we “hit it off”, so to speak. I asked Beth what she was doing for the weekend, then everyone turned to look at her. She said she was going to a play and asked if I wanted to go, and everyone turned to look at me. I said sure and asked what time. Then everyone turned to look at Beth again, and she said 8. I said sounds great, and work resumed in the office. We are now really close friends (on the verge of being bff’s), and it’s all thanks to work.🙂

  13. found your site on del.icio.us today and really liked it.. i bookmarked it and will be back to check it out some more later

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