Research has shown the powerful benefits of having friends at work. People who have friends at work are not only more engaged, but their organizations are more profitable than those in which close friendships are less common.
As you invest more time into finding your dream career, it’s inevitable that the lines between your personal and professional life blur, often out of necessity. A tough day at the office may end with drinks and trading stories with a trusted co-worker. Or you find yourself chatting with your team on Slack from your yoga mat before class begins.
But sometimes things can get tricky when your professional and personal life mix. While it’s as important as ever to build a strong network and surround yourself with supportive people, the foundation of all healthy relaionships rests on creating clear boundaries.
Here's a few essential rules to navigating friendships in today's workplace:
1. Address any awkwardness —If you end up managing your friends, the best thing you can do is confront the situation head on. You could say something along the lines of, “Since I’ve become your supervisor, our relationship has changed, and I know things can feel a little awkward at times.” However you phrase it, don’t put this conversation off. Also recognize it’s okay if you don’t have all the answers. Feel free to say something like, “Have you felt a shift, too? From your perspective, what’s changed?” Then be honest that you’re not entirely clear on how your friendship will play out with this new dynamic. It’s important to be truthful. It’s okay to be vulnerable.
2. Make them your friendtor — Having friends who are as committed to career growth as you are can help you be better at your job and happier in your personal life. Enter the “friendtor”. One of the best people you can have in your social arsenal is an honest, trustworthy friend who can double as a professional mentor—someone you can turn to not only for fun times and memories, but also for advice and support in your career.
3. Be a connector — Suggest other connections you have who you think your work friend would like to get to know. Similarly, ask her to introduce you to a few contacts of her own. This will make it easier to keep your relationship blossoming, but with less pressure to sustain each other’s emotional needs.
4. Draw the line if you have to — As soon as you feel a work friendship blossoming, gently make it clear what you're looking for. If you're totally invested in getting a promotion, you may have to make it very clear that you're focusing on your career at the moment. You may find that it’s easier to limit social contact with work friends to professional settings. For example, follow a rule of thumb that you’ll go out for drinks after a big client presentation or hard day at the office, but inviting them out to a dinner on a weekend with your college friends is off-limits.
While making new friends is exciting and fun, throwing the professional component into the mix can add a layer of complexity. Implementing these tips will help you define the relationship on your terms and keep it functioning at an optimal level for both of you.
Melody Wilding is a coach and licensed social worker who helps ambitious high-achievers manage the emotional aspects of having a successful career. Her clients include CEOs and C-level executives at top Fortune 500 companies such as Google and HP, as well as media personalities, startup founders, and entrepreneurs across industries. She also teaches Human Behavior at Hunter College in NYC. Get free tools to grow your career confidence at melodywilding.com. A version of this article originally appeared on melodywilding.com