Working at the same company as your best friend or sibling might sound amazing: you get to spend your 9-to-5 with someone who’s already close to you. It’s not always that simple, though. You may have days when your sister’s habit of cracking her knuckles is driving you up the wall, or friend group drama means you don’t want to see your friend outside the office, much less inside.
If that happens, you might think, “How am I going to survive this situation without losing it?”
There are steps you can take, though, to ensure that your relationship with a coworker who’s also friends or family stays strong.
1. Set Conversational Boundaries
Sit down with your coworker and make a list of the things you won’t talk about while at work, whether in person, through text, or over Slack. That way, you’ll keep from distracting each other.
For example, maybe you work with your brother, and your father isn’t in very good health. It stresses out both you and your brother, and you realize that if you talk about your dad’s condition at work, you’ll get too worried to focus. You and your brother decide that you’ll only discuss your father outside of work unless there’s an emergency.
Make sure to also list the positive, funny things that throw you off your groove. When I came to work for Clutch, a friend from college already worked here. We initially distracted each other by talking nonstop about all the podcasts we listened to. Eventually, we decided to cut down on the podcast chatter in order to get more done.
2. Find Backup Buddies
It may be tempting to invest all your social energy at work into your friend or family member. After all, you’ve already known that person for a while. However, that mindset will prevent you from making meaningful friendships in the workplace.
During lunch and breaks, make a conscious effort to talk to other people. If you start to develop a rapport with a few coworkers, ask them to get drinks or coffee with you to strengthen that bond. If you run into problems during the workday, or get to collaborate on a project, turn to someone other than your friend or family.
That way, you’ll still have people you enjoy being around if your pal leaves the office, calls in sick, or rubs you the wrong way.
3. Don’t Hang Out Too Much Outside of Work
Try to diversify your social life outside of work, not just inside it. Say you work at the same office as your best friend – that doesn’t mean your friend should always be your go-to partner for going out, seeing movies, or getting brunch, to name a few activities. Part of developing a healthy network of relationships means spending time with multiple people, not only your favorite pal.
Let’s say that a museum downtown has a new exhibit that’s getting rave reviews. You’re free this weekend, so you pick up your phone to text your best friend in the next office over about going to the exhibit. Stop before you do that, though: as wonderful as your best friend is, you see him all the time. Try reaching out to other friends you don’t get to see as much, or new friends you want to get to know better.
After all, one of the perks of a strong friendship is that your best pal will always be there for you. You’ll see him on Monday (and Tuesday, and Wednesday).
4. Have Patience with Each Other
You and your close friend or family member spend a lot of time together if you’re also coworkers. People in close proximity often push each other’s buttons, so try to be patient and remember that your father doesn’t mean to make you grit your teeth when he interrupts you at meetings.
Instead, be gentle with him. He’s close to you for a reason. Take time to clear your head, and then bring up your problem to him the same way you’d address it with any coworker.
Working in the same space as those you love isn’t always easy, but it’s a unique opportunity to make something alongside a person who already understands you deeply. Setting boundaries, being forgiving, and remembering to laugh are all key to making a friendship or family relationship rewarding, both in the office and at home.
Elizabeth Ballou is a content marketer at Clutch, a research, ratings, and reviews company in Washington, D.C. She writes about digital marketing. When she's not working, she's listening to too many podcasts and reviewing theater and video games for various media outlets.