At-Work Friendships

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The Hazards

Of course, not all workplace friendships remain in this state of mutual support and cheerleading. As with all friendships, sometimes your office alliance goes south -- the difference is that you still have to deal with this person every day, and that can be as awkward as a workplace romance that went awry.

Natalie still doesn't understand what happened between her and her former friend, Deirdra. She only knows that she's fallen out of favor with her work friends, and the consequences have been devastating. "She's the ringleader of the social scene here, and I'm seeing a big change. I'm no longer invited to coworker events such as birthday parties. I'm no longer invited to eat lunch with people or go to happy hours after work," says Natalie, 28, from Washington, D.C.

This situation not only makes coming to work painful, it's affecting her life outside the office. "When I began this job in a new city, these people were my only friends and now it seems I have no one left," says Natalie.

Sound like high school? Sadly, office social circles can operate much like teen cliques. "This is a classic 'frienemy,'" says Dr. Erika Karres, who is currently researching a book on friendship. "She pretends to be your friend, but really sabotages and undermines you."

But unlike high school, unpopularity in the office can affect more than your chances of being invited to a cool party Saturday night. It can do serious damage to your career, since you never know what the backstabbers are saying -- and to whom. "It can be really uncomfortable for everyone if an office friendship goes bad," says Paul. "So you need to tread carefully and make sure you're dealing with someone you can trust."

Continued on page 3:  The Balance


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