Fraternizing with Coworkers: Going Beyond the Water Cooler

Find balance between being a cubicle hermit and overzealous social climber

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When working 40-plus hours every week, we probably spend more time with our coworkers than we do with our own family members. Over time, friendships at work can develop and can do either two things: contribute to a more enjoyable workplace (possibly leading to a promotion) or end up in disaster.

Whether you’re running to the door when the clock strikes 5 or you don’t mind mixing business with personal, there is a fine line when fraternizing with coworkers. However, for many, the benefits can outweigh the negatives.

“People with strong relationships at work are usually much happier,” says Kristin Taliaferro, a certified life and career coach. “As humans, we thrive when we feel connected or part of a group, rather than isolated.’ ”

Hobnobbing with others will not only make the day go by faster but can lead to new friendships, romantic relationships (outside of the office, of course) and mentors. Many jobs are filled within the company, so socializing can give you an edge. “If the hiring managers know and respect you, they are more likely to consider you for a promotion,” Taliaferro says. “People enjoy working with colleagues they get along with, so if they get along with you, you’ll have an edge against other candidates.”

Lynnelle Mays, public relations consultant at Mays Public Relations Strategies L.L.C., says that the payoffs of socializing with coworkers are tremendous. “Not only can you build presence and get to know key players, but you open yourself to more opportunities to solve problems,” she says. “It’s easier to suggest ideas in an informal setting among colleagues than at an office meeting where a manager may have a time-sensitive agenda to cover.”

Jessica Burns, vice president at R.L. Burns Inc., a Florida-based construction firm, suggests that it’s always great to have an ally in the office. “You never know who you will need for a favor. Whether it’s calling for help to meet a deadline, tapping into your colleague’s networks for personal or professional needs, or simply having someone to vent to when you’re having a rough day,” Burns says. “Having those personal relationships with people you spend a third of your time with is important.”

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