I recently came across this blog post on whether your coworkers are just your coworkers or also your friends. It was actually published on my new company’s blog back in 2008. I found the article extremely interesting. I liked how the author personalized the topic by describing her relationship with her coworkers. Here’s an excerpt:
Being 24 years old, living in a city, and having come from a company full of 45 year old financial consultants I thought to myself ‘self, you are going to work with a bunch of cool 20 somethings and drink beers with them, and hang out, and be friends.’ Right, totally. So after a few months, I found myself enjoying this office, these 20 somethings, and the general fun that goes along with hanging out with your co-workers. The problem then becomes, are these people friends? Or are they coworkers?
She goes on to wonder if you can hang out with coworkers in a bar or restaurant (saying all the things friends say to one another in bars and restaurants), and then have a totally professional relationship with them while at work. I’ve sometimes grappled with this question. I like how the author went on to ask her CEO his opinion, and I like even more his response:
“…in your 20’s the people you work with can be very much part of your social network, you spend a ton of time together, usually share similar interests, and are forced in to close quarters. After 29, all bets are off – your life changes, you get married, have kids, then you spend less time worrying about making friends at work and more about managing the friendships you already have [or wondering why you have no friends].”
I really identify with these thoughts. For much of my 20s I spent lots of my free time with coworkers. I mean, it’s really easy to just head over to a bar or restaurant after work with your colleagues, especially if you work downtown. You all have a TON to talk about, as you spend so much time together every day. You can gossip about a coworker who’s not there, discuss your thoughts on a new work policy, or exchange opinions on the company’s evolution.
Now that I’m approaching 30, however, I find myself spending less time with coworkers and more time with friends I already have. Maybe that’s because I’m more settled than I was before (I’m engaged, don’t have plans to move, etc.), and have built a more balanced, multifaceted life.
To me it makes more sense to cultivate a wide variety of friendships than to largely hang out with coworkers. As you get older, you realize that friends are more than just who you are currently spending time with. They are the people you’ll continue to spend time with (or keep in touch with).
Often coworkers are just people you happen to be with at the moment, not people you’ll maintain relationships with after leaving the company. So your time is better spent figuring out who your friends are, in all realms of life, and spending time with those people.