When it comes to workplace success, it seems as though all the focus falls on hard work, pay raises and promotions. But having friends at work is another important goal to accomplish.
Your friends at work do more than have an occasional lunch or happy-hour beverage with you. They give you a sense of joint purpose and camaraderie that makes you want to pull your weight and succeed. They also help you feel engaged in your work, no matter how disenchanted you are with the position or with the company. But companies where in-office friendships thrive are more likely to keep their employees on-board for longer and experience higher profits, so it’s less likely you’ll feel that disenchantment anyway.
The only problem is that it’s hard to make friends at work because you have to break down a professional barrier to build a more social, personal one. Fortunately, others have expertly navigated that line before and have shared their tips to making it happen. Here are four of them:
1. Ask the Right Questions
It’s easy to fall into the small-talk trap with your colleagues. You can ask them how they’re doing or make a comment about the weather — but those conversations fail to get you to a more personal, friendlier conversation.
That’s why you should make a point to ask more open-ended questions to your colleagues who seem like friend material. Whether you ask about an interesting piece of desk décor or get the lowdown on their holiday weekend plans, you will find out more about your colleague’s life. Knowing more tidbits will help you relate them to your own life, and we all know a certain level of commonality is a great foundation for a real friendship.
2. Attend Social Gatherings
Do you grumble every time you get an invite to a workplace social gathering? Whether it’s Happy Hour drinks or the yearly holiday, it’s imperative to show face at these inter-office events.
It’s as simple as this: Not attending your company social events won’t make it any easier to make friends. On top of that, an out-of-office party makes it easier to get to know people on an out-of-office level. In other words, you don’t have to feel pressured to get back to work. You can talk about your lives as you would in any other social setting because, well, it’s a social setting. And once you break the ice, you can start making time for lunch and after-work drinks with your newfound friends.
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3. Lend a Hand
Another way to make connections is to step up when your colleagues need help. It’s likely that you’re already reliable and helpful anyway, but you probably don’t realize how much that improves your reputation around the office.
Being known as helpful will have a snowball effect, too. Once people know you’re willing to step up and help with a project, they will consider you first when they need another person to join the inter-office kickball team, for example. On top of that, working closely with your co-workers to solve a problem will bring you closer regardless of any social engagements that come out of it. So, either way, being known as a helper will develop those deep bonds with your colleagues.
4. Be Willing to Strike Out
With every effort at building a new relationship, you have to be willing to put yourself out there — and potentially fail at connecting with a co-worker. You also have to be willing to give everyone a chance, even if they don’t seem to have much in common with you at the outset. By pressing onward and continuing the conversation, you might just find you have more to talk about than you think.
The most important thing to remember is that you can’t give up on inter-office friendships. They make your experience at work so much more meaningful, and they’ll make you look forward to returning to the office on a Monday morning. So if one effort to build a connection fails, try another. Eventually, you’ll find that workplace buddy — or two, or three — who makes your job feel a little bit less like work.
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