Fraternizing with Coworkers: Going Beyond the Water Cooler

Find balance between being a cubicle hermit and overzealous social climber

Two men arguing at work over the copier

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It’s also vital to proceed with caution while building friendly relationships in the office and avoid conflict triggers such as gossip. Don’t go so overboard with fraternizing that it begins to hinder productivity or get too personal. These toxic behaviors can give the impression that you’re untrustworthy or inefficient, and can even serve as ammo for another employee who’s privately pinning for your job.

“Socializing with colleagues can also be precarious unless you continue to treat the relationship as purely professional,” says Hallie Crawford, certified career coach and founder of Create Your Career Path. “You need to really watch what you say and make sure you don’t say something that could affect your job stability or professional image.”

If you’re ever put in the awkward position of being the listening ear of a repetitive gossip or Negative Nelly in the office, Mays suggests taking the high road. “Handle cynics by offering a bright perspective on a dim conversation or change the topic.”

Creating too close a relationship with a coworker can sometimes cloud your judgment and perspective. “If a colleague you’ve grown close to is doing something unethical or something that could jeopardize the firm, you may be less inclined to do the right thing if you’re close personal friends,” Burns says. “On the other hand, you may harbor some resentment if there’s a separation that could have an ill effect on your position and value with the firm in the future.”

Whatever way you decide to build relationships with your coworkers and colleagues, be sure you diversify your network. “Don’t solely depend on your work friends for your social life. Make sure you are diverse and have friends outside of work,” Taliaferro says. “I’ve seen many clients leave jobs and lose their social life all in one day, and it’s crushing. Find balance with your work life and social life.”

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