Friends and Aquaintances

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An unpleasant interchange a friend had recently at her former job made me realize that workplace relationships are just as important as finding your dream job. Imagine you find that “dream job” but can't cope with your co-workers or even your boss. That is a definite recipe for workplace distress.

Friends and family members I've talked to all have different views when it comes to “workplace friendships,” as they are called. Some ignore the people they work with altogether, go out for drinks, exchange dating and relationship advice, and some are even invited to weddings. For people you often see more than your own family, it's useful to know how to nurture them.

An article I browsed through on gives some advice I usually use whenever I meet anyone new. At first I prefer not to divulge too much personal information. It's always nice to be friendly, but these people are strangers. You will eventually get to know them but you don't have to tell them your entire life story to get along or to do your job well.

I had a part-time job when I was studying in England for a transportation authority. All of the women there had been employed there for their entire adult lives, 20 years or more. In this type of setting the workplace roles have already been established and you have to see where, and how, you will fit in. There was the loud, full of life one, the talkative one, the thoughtful one, the younger, single mom. I was not only new, but a foreigner as well, so they had to get used to my habits and my accent.

Of course they wanted to know everything about me. I told them just enough to feel like I was part of the team, but not enough that I felt like I would be the topic of their next gossip session. (In an office environment gossip is inevitable; besides it can even help to pass the time when it's not malicious.)

Things like what I was studying, how many siblings I had, if my parents were still alive and married, if I was single, are all small talk topics I had no problem in sharing. But things only my closest friends or my husband or my family knew about me had no place at work. The point is to find a compromise that makes you comfortable.

Jobs can get monotonous so getting along with co-workers is essential if you don't want to pass eight hours in complete silence. There is nothing wrong with socializing but then there is too much socializing. Perhaps that's subjective but if you are talking and notice that you haven't done anything productive or that others are giving you dirty looks, you probably have reached and surpassed the limit.

I hate when I go into a store and cashiers are talking to their co-workers completely ignoring me. Or, even worse, making me wait until they finish their conversation. That's not professional. It comes down to how you would like to be served and treated and that's how you treat others.

In my job history I was always working for a purpose: either to make money to get to college, while I was in college to pay for books and tuition, or after college to pay for my professional degree. So I wasn't there for the “long-haul” and not interested in long-term relationships. That's what I told myself, but when you see people everyday for the better part of your day you can't help but feel some affection for them.

I still keep in contact with co-workers from England and from other jobs I've had in the U.S and that's a good thing. But I have also seen the negative side of workplace relationships. I've seen people get into verbal altercations of all kinds and mostly because too much of their personal lives are on display at work.

So then the mediators are called in and in the worst cases someone is fired, or reprimanded, and then that horrible tension is created. These types of relationships are real and just as important as personal ones. It's how you deal with them and how you treat them that makes them worthwhile or a nightmare.

By: Samantha Taylor


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