Pundit to Office Newbies: Work Friends Aren't Real Friends

Last Updated Sep 22, 2010 8:47 AM EDT

Of all the difficult aspects of the working world, few things flummox those making the transition from school to employment like the unexpected emotional complexities of offices. You might think you're not the type to play politics, but everyone soon realizes that bland cubicles across the country mask a complex reality of alliances, feuds, resentments and badly handled insecurities.

WSJ columnist Alexandra Levit recently used her blog Water Cooler Wisdom to warn new entrants to this complicated social reality, not to bring the naive view of friendship that served them well in college to the office. "There are differences between close friends who will be there for you through life's tough times and people you hang out with while you happen to be stuck in the same building," she says and suggests that ""you can spare yourself disappointment later on by noting the differences between a work friend and a real friend." How can you make the distinction? Levit provides a handy checklist of questions to consider:
  • If your friend left the company, would you still be in touch with her in a year?
  • If you had a personal emergency, would you consider asking your friend for help?
  • Do you hang out with your friend outside the office? (weekday lunches, happy hours, and business trips don't count.)
  • Have you met your friend's significant other? What about her friends outside the office?
  • If your friend received the promotion you were banking on, would you be genuinely happy for her?
  • If you ran into your friend in the grocery store, would you be able to talk to her for 10 minutes without mentioning work?
  • Have you seen where your friend lives?
  • Do you and your friend have anything in common besides your age and your job?
Is Levit's view of office friendships too chilly for your taste, or do you think she's right about the ultimate value of most work buddies?

(Photo courtesy of Flickr user amanda.venner, CC 2.0)
  • Jessica Stillman On Twitter»

    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.

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