At-Work Friendships

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The Balance

How to strike a balance? Paul says it's essential to make sure that you don't invest your entire emotional life in the office. Having friends outside of work will not only make you less vulnerable to the slings and arrows of office politics, it will also enable you to be more discreet. "It's much easier to have healthy boundaries if you aren't overly dependent on your work friends," says Paul.

Paul doesn't believe you need to keep all workplace pals at arm's length -- it's only natural that you'll make close friends during the 9-to-5 hours. However, you need to choose them wisely. Don't become fast friends with that new chick who just transferred from Cincinnati, no matter how fabulous she seems. Be friendly and invite her to lunch if you like, but don't start bad-mouthing the boss the third time you talk to her -- such carelessness could really haunt you later. "Not everyone needs to be your close confidante. It's a sign of maturity to recognize that there are different levels of friends," says Paul.

One way to know if your office pal is a true soul mate is to see how you two do outside the office -- do you have anything to talk about beyond your anxieties about the latest round of layoffs or Joe and Carol's affair? "I've heard from women who left jobs thinking they had wonderful friends. But once they leave the office, that's it. The friendship doesn't translate," says Paul.

For Kristina and Sarah, their time together outside work is just as valuable as their time on the job. "We have dinner together with our husbands and friends," says Kristina. "And we're always up for the after-work manicure and pedicure, where we vow not to talk about work."


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