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Assume Alice and Bob work together in a software company with a pretty informal and easygoing work culture. They get along well. They see each other during team lunches. They help each other out with work stuff. They share funny pictures and videos on the office instant messenger.

They do NOT see each other outside of work, except for team outings. They have NOT shared private contact details (phone/email/IM) with each other (it's never come up). They might share some amusing personal anecdotes, but they don't share serious stuff from their personal lives with each other.

Now, there's a coffee shop near the workplace which the employees frequent. Bob is meeting some of his friends (from outside work) here, some evening after the workday is over. He runs into Alice.

Now, Bob can say to his friends:

  1. Guys, meet Alice, a friend of mine.
  2. Guys, meet Alice; we're coworkers/colleagues/teammates.

There's a flip-side to both.

If Bob goes with option 1, Alice, who might only think of Bob as a coworker, could consider this presumptuous.

If Bob goes with option 2, Alice, who might feel that they're close, could consider it an insult to be classified as a mere coworker.

Either choice is potentially detrimental to their work relationship.

When I'm in Bob's shoes, I go for option 3 and say something like "Guys, meet Alice, she's the best developer on our team." This establishes that I know her from work without using any labels.

However, this doesn't always work out, as there isn't always a good option 3. Making one on the spot could result in something more awkward than either option.

I was wondering, is there a way to handle this tactfully? How does one introduce someone they know from work to people they know from outside? Especially a young single male introducing a young single female.

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    Or just a simple "this is Alice, who I work with" – HorusKol Feb 4 '17 at 14:37
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    Why not leave it as "xxx, this is Alice. Alice this is xxx?" – Rui F Ribeiro Feb 5 '17 at 10:36
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    If she is on your same team, then say she is your teammate. If she is in a different team, say she is your colleague. Neither is an insult. – Brandin Feb 6 '17 at 7:30
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    @Snowman Are you looking to date her? Otherwise I don't see how it would be different from introducing a man. – Brandin Feb 6 '17 at 7:34
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    @Brandin: I'm from India. You could introduce any man as your 'brother'. So the issue of friend vs collegue never comes up. OTOH,You can't really introduce a girl as your 'sister'. In our culture, that could be taken as a comment on her appearance. (Kinda like ma'am is taken by girls in some circles to imply old age). – Snowman Feb 6 '17 at 7:42
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why not just combine the two:

  1. Guys, meet Alice, a friend of mine from work.

You are elevating Alice above co-worker, but still anchoring the relationship as work based.

If over the years the friendship remains after one leaves the company, or if the outside of work friendship grows, then adjust your introduction.

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    A good alternative. So you're saying it's okay to use both labels? – Snowman Feb 4 '17 at 13:03
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    This is exactly the answer that sprang to my mind when I read the question. It's perfectly okay to use both labels. – Laconic Droid Feb 4 '17 at 13:08
  • It's also fine to say "this is my colleague and friend." That way, you recognize both roles. – Brandin Feb 6 '17 at 7:31
  • I've used exactly this phrasing multiple times, for relationships I've had just like Bob and Alice. Me and this co-worker are not explicitly friends, as we've never socialized outside of work or discussed much too deep in our lives outside of work. But we do laugh and joke and socialize within the office, just as friends would. So, we are friends within the office...we are office friends...she is my friend from the office. – Trevor D Feb 8 '17 at 4:08
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You are over thinking this. If you consider the person a friend, there is nothing wrong with introducing them as a friend and letting folks ask how you know each other. There is also nothing wrong with introducing them as a co-worker and letting folks assume they are also a friend. Or stating both, or neither. "Mari, this is Chuck; Chuck, Mari." Folks will ask questions to learn more.

If you want a more formal answer, consult a book of etiquette... but this really is not worth worrying about.

  • Thanks for answering. +1. I know it might be overthinking, regardless, I'd like to know what the best way is. – Snowman Feb 4 '17 at 13:05
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    "Best", unfortunately, is a matter of context and opinion. – keshlam Feb 4 '17 at 14:51

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