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I have a colleague with whom I started talking more and more. I am the only developer and often I ended up having lunch only with this person. We talk a lot, I like the person but I am starting to worry about boundaries, i.e. where the friendly behaviour should stop. We are very friendly, but I feel that anything I say could be used against me.

My question is: how should one handle pseudo-friends at work in terms of boundaries and communication?

  • 2
    You say you are very friendly, so why does the friendly behaviour have to stop? – Mohair Oct 20 '15 at 23:00
  • I had a job interview soon after I started, for a big company (Apple-level). They didn't follow up, and my former line manager told me out of the blue "what do you think to find in that company? do you believe that I don't know these things?". Now, it turned out that my FLM personally knew the guy who interviewed me. But this would be terribly unprofessional on the interviewer's side. On the other hand, the only colleague who knew about this was my 'friend', so I started getting wary. – Monoandale Oct 21 '15 at 9:17
  • Re I feel that anything I say could be used against me -- That's certainly true with regard to saying something inappropriate. Then again, that's also true outside of work as well. On the other hand, perhaps its time to look for a different employer if you feel you have to worry about every little thing you might say. – David Hammen Oct 21 '15 at 10:18
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Short answer: If you are worried about something you say being used against you, then don't say something that may be used against you :)

Trust is something that takes time. If you don't feel you trust this person to say anything that you feel may be "risky" to say, then you should probably be cautious. However, it's quite fine to make friendships in the workplace. I have a number of people I have and do work with who I consider friends. But that is not an overnight process.

Really, it's like relationships in any other aspect in your life. Some people you feel comfortable talking to, some you don't. If you don't want to share something because you don't feel "safe" doing so, then just keep the discussion at a shallower level.

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It's normal and useful to have a friendly relationship with the people you work with.

People are not robots, and having friends at work helps maintain a healthy emotional state, which in turn helps one stay engaged and focused at work.

If your relationship with someone is friendly, then it makes it easier for you to approach them for assistance or advice on something, and vice versa.

Don't be afraid of making friends with people from work, if that's something that you want. According this article, 10% of Americans met their spouse at work between 2005 and 2009. There's nothing inappropriate about becoming friends with people at work.

On the otherhand, if you would prefer not to have a relationship (whether romantic or plantonic) beyond your professional relationship with this person, then you can just keep things friendly but not overly intimate. For example you can chat about:

  • The weather
  • Your hobbies
  • Sports
  • The latest movie you've seen.

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