Just Coworkers or Friends: A Few Ways to Tell the Difference

I’ve had MANY jobs these past few years and I’ve met some great people. For a long time I felt that to make a connection with someone, was to make a friend. If my coworkers and I made a connection, got along, or even had similarities, it was the start of a friendship. It wasn’t until a few failed attempts that I realized that wasn’t always true. You’re coworkers aren’t you’re friends and I’m going to tell you why.

Sharing Isn’t Always Caring

So on this topic I can only speak from my experience, but I’m sure many of you have endured the same. There have been times I’ve come to work with a lot on my mind and just needing someone to vent to. I’m at work so I can’t call my friends or family and sometimes the issue may be with them. Your lunch break is only for so long and you need more than 30 minutes to an hour to vent (that includes response time and the potential shedding of tears). Your only option at this point is to turn to that one coworker that you feel as though you have created a bond with and could possibly confide in.

You share your thoughts and vent your little heart out to them and everything seems fine. You even begin to feel better. That is until that information is brought back to you from someone else or you overhear someone discussing it. Now other people you work with know your business and it’s not a good look. These types of coworkers are not friends and may just like to gossip. Don’t take it to heart, just learn from your mistakes and move forward. Nothing good will come from confronting them and possibly making a scene.

Not Everyone Will Be Happy For You

This to me is what’s more upsetting than anything else mostly because I support anything involving others around me that is positive and making them happy. You expect the same from those you call friends. I can recall being on a job and being called into my managers office after my lunch. Now of course the entire lunch break, me and my coworkers are discussing what trouble I could’ve gotten into and they reassured me I was fine and to stay positive. Come to find out I got picked for a promotion. Never did it occur to me that the offer would make anyone else unhappy. Of course when I announced the news everyone appeared to be happy, but the closer the time came and the more I talked about it, I learned that wasn’t true.

Just as I shared my downfalls with these people, I also shared my success. The only thing that seemed to interest them was the negative. Soon they began to distance themselves and the more I reached out, the more I pulled away. Here I was with a new position and better things happening and all I could think about was the “friends” I lost. Once again these aren’t friends. If they can’t be happy and supportive for your success, just as they were for your misery, they aren’t deserving of your company. Remember misery loves company. You can’t expect someone who only knows negative to know the feeling of something positive. It’s as if you can never be further ahead than them without them feeling as if you are on a higher platform. If anything it should be encouragement and motivation to do better. You don’t need these types of people around you and you’re better off without.

Spreading Yourself too Thin

If you have a good heart, then you are already more than familiar with this topic. In our personal lives we have a tendency to overextend ourselves, but this happens in the workplace more than you think. It can be from taking on extra tasks, trying to get too much done at once, and even trying to help out a “friend”. In my previous work I’ve built relationships with coworkers to the point where we may do favors for each other. It may start off as small as printing or copying some documents for them and progress to lying about their whereabouts to a supervisor. Now that sounds extreme but I’ve done it. I’ve stuck my neck out for people who through me under the bus in return.

This was because I considered these people friends and I was wrong. No real friend will put you in a predicament that could cost you your job as well. See the issue is I use to be a sucker for a sob story. You could tell me a convincing lie and I would mistaken it for the truth. I had one coworker clock in then leave back out for a few hours. If I was asked where they were I would say the restroom or that they stepped outside for a moment. I did this because of alleged family issues. This one occurrence turned into several and it got to the point where I had to tell them I could no longer cover for them because I felt uncomfortable and not to mention I was picking up their slack at work.

Of course this caused tension and eventually resulted into the demise of our “friendship”. I can’t count on one time where that same person bent our backwards for me. I was being used but luckily put it to an end before it got out of hand. People like this will only drag you down with them if they were to ever get caught and only you would be to blame for it. Don’t find yourself wrapped up in one of these situations. Keep it professional and hope for the best.

Not so Friendly Competition

One of the most annoying things to me is feeling like I have to compete with my coworkers. Sometimes the workplace does it to get people to take the job more seriously, to meet a quota, or to add “excitement”, but sometimes it can be stressful. I never like employers who pin you against those you work with. The only thing more stressful than that, are coworkers who make go out of their way to make everything a competition. They way I see it, I don’t see a need to compete for what I have. My work should speak for itself, so job security should never be an issue. Its tiring, pointless, and there is nothing to gain. This happens a lot when people feel threatened by you and even more so with those coworkers you feel closest with.

This isn’t to say they are all like this but you know the ones who are. They seem like genuinely good people until it comes to getting work done. They have to let you know what awards they have received, how quickly they completed a task, if there is something you are working on such as weight loss, they want to flaunt how much more they’ve already loss. Everything has to be done better, quicker, more efficient when they’ve done it. When you actually do something and receive praise for your accomplishments, they are either silent or nonexistent in the celebration. If they are talking, they are using your time of praise to give themselves a pat on the back for their past achievements. All you really want is someone to relate to and instead they want to put themselves on a pedestal. Just know that these aren’t people you want in your circle and it’s probably a headache even trying to get lunch with them. Stick to your real friends and allow them to compete with themselves.

Bad Memory or Not Worth Remembering

Now as we form relationships, we share key dates and important life events with our coworkers. Most of the time the office keeps a calendar of birthdays and throw a celebration for birthdays each month. For the longest I always felt since my birthday was after a major holiday, most people who aren’t close to me wouldn’t remember. Those who I considered friends and were actually friends, did remember and you bought a gift or a card. Those who didn’t remember continued on as if nothing happened and was usually shocked when someone brought it up. Typically these same coworkers you may invite to hang out after work to celebrate and they either always have an excuse or never show up.

Now I use to take this to heart because I’m thinking my “friend” forgot my special day or stood me up. The thing is these weren’t friends. It wasn’t that they were extremely busy or forgetful, it just wasn’t worth remembering or being apart of. They will congratulate you and cheer you on all from the comfort of their cubicle, but not past that point. I know this because I have met coworkers that have turned into friends. Those people remembered key dates and even reminded me of things. It’s all about knowing the difference and not being offended by those who already know and may not view you as a friend.

Now that you know the few ways to detect a coworker from a friend, you can prevent some of the mistakes I’ve made. It’s okay to hangout and enjoy the company of others, but friendship takes time to build. Even if you’ve been working with people for years, they will never see you outside of being a coworker. Sure it’s great to find new people that have things in common with you but don’t cross that line too soon. Remember that friends don’t compete, they uplift, they aren’t so quick to point out your mistakes as they are to help you so don’t make those mistakes again.

They don’t require things of you that could get you in any trouble regardless if you’re capable or not. They don’t repeat information you shared with them in secret. Real friends are trustworthy and loyal. Don’t be saddened or feel foolish because you considered coworkers to be more than that because it’s normal. It’s easy to become attached especially in a comfortable work environment. Work on being able to tell the difference and celebrate those coworkers who are actual FRIENDS.


4 Comments Add yours

  1. sportingpak says:

    Agreed with most.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice advice, especially for those of us just starting out in a new job. I find it best to keep a professional distance from all coworkers, though. They are coworkers, and we will be friendly and get along, but I’m not going to share much of my personal life or opinions with them. I just don’t feel like work is a good environment for personal entanglements of any kind, and not getting too close makes it easier when it’s time for people to move on to a new position somewhere else. So my motto at work? Be friendly, not friends.


    1. jusbnicole says:

      Thank you! I agree that personal life shouldn’t be discussed at work. Sadly I’ve made some of the mistakes I’ve mentioned and learned my lesson. I’ve also met some of my closest friends from various jobs. I guess it’s all about discernment and the right timing.

      Liked by 1 person

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