When Work Friends Part

My last day at my current job is right around the corner. In a few weeks I’ll pack up my belongings and set up shop in our second-bedroom-slash-home-office.

I’m incredibly excited about this next step and the year ahead. But there is, of course, one thing I will miss: My work BFFs.

As I’ve mentioned here before, I have a wonderful gang of work besties. We’re really close, perhaps closer than normal coworkers should be. They have become some of my closest friends and I’m going to miss our constant banter, IMing across cubes or yelling across aisles, buying each other birthday treats, sending any and all links related to Glee/How I Met Your Mother/teenybopper films/celebrity babies and breakups/Neil Patrick Harris, laughing over lunch hours, and generally doing everything that friends who spend their days within eight feet of each might.

It’s the first friend goodbye I’ll have since starting this search and I am not looking forward to it.

Of course, it’s not like any of us are moving. We may not all work together anymore (two of my four work BFFs are leaving around the same time as I), but we’ll still be in Chicago. We could see each other pretty often if we want to.

I’ve heard mixed reviews about what can happen to a friendship between coworkers when you no longer share an office. In one camp are those who say not working together actually makes the friendship stronger. Office gossip takes up a lot of conversation time, the argument goes. Once you free that space up to talk about more substantial stuff like personal lives and emotions and Bieber, you take the relationship to the next level.

Then there are those who say that once the common ground of the office is gone, suddenly there’s not much holding the friendship together. When there are no circles around the water cooler, there’s not much left. Or so the argument goes.

In my case, I’m quite confident these friendships will last. They’ve been elevated from mere “work friend” to “friend” to “really good friend.” I  spend eight hours a day with these people. They know pretty much all there is to know about me… and they still like me! Keepers.

But in my past life, in previous jobs, I’ve had co-workers fall into both categories. One of my dearest friends in the world is a cube-neighbor of mine from my first job. We were very close then, and our friendship is something serious now. On the other hand, I’ve had a few other coworkers that I considered friends, not just “work friends,” who I hardly spoke to after I left the job. We tried, with an email here, a Facebook message there. But mostly we got lazy and went our separate ways.

So, though in this case I feel pretty confident of what will happen, I ask you your experience. When you’ve left jobs, have you maintained friendships with your coworkers? Or did your relationships fizzle, despite your best intentions?

P.S. Thank you for all the birthday wishes! It was a stellar day.

12 Comments

Filed under The Search

12 responses to “When Work Friends Part

  1. I’m the one that never left my company, but I’ve had both experiences with those who have moved on. I had a really great group of work friends when I started, since we were all fresh out of college and didn’t really care about our first jobs (they were entry-level and tedious), so we had a lot of common ground. And when they started leaving for other companies, 2 became really close friends, and the rest, eh, I catch up with them on Facebook periodically. I could tell how that was going to work, since the 2 friends and I talked about substantial non-work things at the office, where the rest didn’t.

  2. I had a friend that I worked with at one job and when I moved to a second job, she ended up following me! (better pay and WAY better benefits). But, once I moved out of town, our friendship kind of fizzled. I hadn’t realized how much our friendship was so work related. We still chat occasionally, but if it weren’t for facebook, we’d rarely talk.

  3. anonymous

    I’m more concerned with how one makes office friends in the first place. I’ven never been in a situation where I’ve had to wonder if a friendship from work will last because I’ve never had work friends. I don’t know if it’s “just me” – I’ve NEVER fit in anywhere I go, and my co-workers at my current job mostly ignore me (not even a “good morning” or “good night” unless I say it first) despite my massive (no, really) efforts to try to be friends. So, before I get concerned with how to KEEP office friends, I really need to know how to MAKE them…

  4. I’ve had both, but I think it really depends on how much of a friendship you have outside of work while you work together. The friends I have now from past work situations are all people that I interacted with a lot outside of work. But those that I was friends with AT work but didn’t see much outside I don’t talk to now.

  5. LizC

    I’ve not been really good at keeping in touch with work friends after I’ve left the job. I try. I’ll send email updates for the first few months and I’ll get lunch with them if I have the time. But eventually they’ve all fizzled out. I think, in my case at least, part of it is that most of my work friends have all been quite a bit older than I am. I’ve been the youngest person in the office everywhere I’ve worked so when I leave, or they leave, it’s really easy to lose touch because really all we did have in common was work.

    I have managed to stay friends with one person I worked with a few years ago but she’s also close to my age so we’re interested in and able to do the same things and we did things outside of the office while we both still worked there.

    So I think that if you and your coworkers are all at roughly the same stages in your life it might be easier to stay friends after you lose the work commonality.

  6. One of my best friends till date is a work friend. We met when we both moved cities and joined a new company at the same time. When I left the first company and moved to the second, she was there with me and that is when we really hit it off. She has held my hand through the first eight months of my pregnancy and I have supported her through a lot of tough stuff that she had to undergo at home. Today we live on different continents and catch-up maybe once in 6 months, but she’s still the person I turn to when I need a shoulder to cry on or someone to share my highs with.

  7. Cheryl

    I think it depends on both sides – you mentioned that you have work BFFs that know everything about you and still like you, which is VERY cool! But sometimes, there are people that you enjoy working with, you get along great, and you have things in common, but they don’t … return the ball. Like in tennis – you hit the friendship ball over the net, but someone has to return it, or the game stops (or never gets going in the first place).

    I’ve left lots of places before (work, school, etc.), and I tried to be the one who kept in touch; it did not go well in any case, and it was ultimately because people’s lives change and grow in different directions.

    People mean well when they say “we’ll keep in touch,” but they usually don’t, and it’s because either the new people who replace you actually do replace you (such as at work – the girl in the cubicle next to theirs has an interesting life/personality, etc., too), or because the energy they devoted to the relationship at work is used up for something else.

    If that happens, it’s not about you – or them. It’s just the way life goes. You have to be able to let the river flow by you, enjoy what comes, contribute to the lives of others, and move on to the next place where you will make new contributions, meet new people, and make new friends.

  8. I’ve made very few work friends, but the ones I’ve made, I’ve kept.

  9. foxflat

    The work friendships where we regularly hung out after work hours (making dinners, going to movies, taking saturday trips to the coast) have generally survived changing jobs or even moving. Even if they don’t last in the new position, it doesn’t mean they weren’t 100% real and awesome and made work way better every day!!!

  10. M

    This post comes at an interesting time. I was recently added to a FB page for a company I haven’t worked for since 1997. I hated working there but still managed to make a few friends that I still have today. What I find amusing is that there were several people who I know still do not have friendly feelings towards me (nor do I for them) but yet felt the need to reach out and ask what I’ve been up to. I always felt like these particular people wanted me to fail and were checking to see if I did. Either way, I defected because I never felt comfortable at the company and the FB page just brought me right back to that place. However, even bad situations bring good things and even though we don’t see each other as much as we would like, I still have these 2 wonderful friends that I would have never met if I didn’t work in the evil place!

  11. Pingback: New Career Phase. New Friend Phase? | MWF Seeking BFF

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