In an office set-up it is essential not to get too personal with your co-workers, and yet not be the snob isolated from the rest, suggests Reneta Kripalani
It’s a typical Monday morning. You’ve snoozed your alarm for those “extra” minutes of sleep, until you realise you are late for that important meeting at work! You reach work, the meeting is half-way through, your boss isn’t happy, the client is snappy as always, he wants a detailed presentation by tomorrow, which means late hours today…what a ‘kick’ start to the week! It’s nearing lunch and another client just demands your attention… this juggling act makes you want to scream loud! Your co-worker in the next cubicle smiles, his smile reflects his understanding for your woes. No time for a meal, you grab a quick bite for lunch, sharing those loud laughs with your colleagues. Your evening cuppa coffee with a close associate is rejuvenating. The workload seems to get lighter, and you are glad a few others are working late as well, and you are willing to join them for dinner post work hours.
The week goes by on a similar note. When you pause to think, you realise the amount of time you spend with your colleagues 365 days of the year. Maybe it is even more than what you spend with your group of friends or family. Gradually, they begin to don the role of a friend, mentor, family member, or even a lover! Is this a boon or a bane? Is it important to be friendly, should this scenario be avoided, should you keep your ‘distance’ from your colleague? The answer is tricky.
WE ARE FAMILY
So what makes you bond with a colleague? Constant interaction, working for a ‘common cause’, the amount of time spent with each other in a day, the reasons are innumerable. Similar likes and dislikes top the list. As Esther Caszo, who works with a television production house puts it, “At work, there may be people from the same background, course, age, or have similar personalities and opinions. Thus, automatically you tend to get close to them.” She also feels it’s a matter of convenience. “If your vibes gel”, she adds, “it becomes convenient to share your joys and sorrows with your workplace fellows since you’re with them for a greater part of the day. You may catch a movie with them post work, since most of your other friends may be caught up with their work in different parts of the city.”
Devnidhi Bajoria, an advertising professional, feels it’s the “common enemy” which could bring people together at work. “There are times when a bad boss can make you bond with your team members, a result of sharing common grievances.” Media professional Ruhail Amin is quick to add, “Due to the long work hours, you tend to look for a support system at work. It’s natural to get friendly with your co-workers. When you work as a team, team spirit also tends to bring you closer.”
Girish Chandran, an event manager, quips “At one of my former workplaces, regular parties were arranged to ensure you know all your colleagues. Most of the time, you get to know the real person only after 6:30pm.”
THE OTHER SIDE
Some relationships at work however, may not be as unconditional as they seem. Kundan Shah, a software engineer, illustrates, “You have to maintain cordial relations with everyone at work. Be it your boss, who may not be your best friend, but is responsible for your promotion, or with your colleagues, who you need to coordinate with on a daily basis, whether you like it or not. Your personal preference has no space.”
Mona Budhrani, a costume designer for films, exhorts, “Sometimes people try to be over-friendly. This can happen either because you’re at an influential position at work, or the other needs to get some work out of you.”
As in case of Kavya Krishnan, a financial expert, “When my team member, who was a close friend, started to date her boyfriend, she would frequently ask me to do her favours so that she could leave early. She assumed I would ‘understand’. However with time, I started getting extremely annoyed which began to affect our relationship.”
Thus, this interaction or bond is inevitable. It can do wonders, but also prove to be a hazard if not handled in the right way. We explore the nuances:
THE BRIGHT SIDE
Good relations with colleagues enhance your work-relationship with them, making it easier for you to work whatever be the nature of the project.
An office buddy can make the otherwise dull atmosphere fun and ease the routine stress. Who better to identify with your despair at work than someone who has “been there, done that!” They can also be one of the reasons motivating you to head to work each day, and put in that extra bit.
The mentoring boss can help you grow professionally, with his experience in the field speaking volumes. His motivation can keep the tempo high, especially at times when you’re running low on energy. His rightly pointed out areas of improvement can help you chart a successful career path. Office camaraderie can also help teach you the ‘tricks of the trade’, like understanding how to tackle your boss better, which may be useful to climb the ladder.
Most organisations are eager to see their employees grow not only professionally, but also personally. This development only comes about with interpersonal relations with co-workers.
UNVEILING THE DARK
Getting very friendly with a co-worker may result in spending too much time in the canteen, or the constant chatter at work can divert you from your focus. This can also give people the impression that either you are too frivolous, or not much interested in work
Sometimes people try to get friendly with you with a hidden agenda if you are at an influential position at work. Such a situation can make the other person think he’s being “used” generating feelings of animosity.
A colleague can consciously or unconsciously take you for granted.
The friendship can bring emotional baggage with it, affecting work. You tend to get very edgy when a friend at work, who may be a senior or your boss, criticizes you. This can hamper your self-esteem as well. The same could apply to a boss or colleague who would have to address a subordinate, whose performance is not up to the mark
Breaking up with a co-worker with whom you have shared a friendship which has been more than platonic can be draining. It would not only be impossible to avoid the individual, but you may have to bear it up for the sake of your work, making you feel worse.
Thus, relationships at work can add that zing to your day, push you to work harder, and have the potential to develop into life-long relationships. However, you can be in a catch-22 situation if things go wrong.
What is then, the key to maintaining relationships at work? “It’s important to be real! Faking a personality can make people dislike you, jeopardising your relationships, and work in-turn,” maintains Kavya. Sumir Nair, an assistant editor for films, feels one should take the relationship slowly before getting too friendly or close to a colleague. “Man is a social animal and is bound to make friends be it at work or otherwise. Thus, I feel you should get to know the person first, giving the relationship time to grow and breathe. Everyone is different and peculiar in their own way. So accept it first, before treading too fast. This will help avoid complications at a later stage.”
Open communication is a great way to foster healthy relationships. “Whatever be the issue, you need to address it with maturity and put your personal differences aside at the time of work. Everywhere there will be people who you may not like, or who do not like you, but you must not forget that you can’t choose the people you work with,” says Ruhail. “If things are not working out with a colleague, you must make an effort to resolve it as soon as possible, and keep the egos aside.”
It’s important to put your foot down when required. “My work is of utmost priority, and if people make mistakes, it doesn’t matter who you are to me, I shall address the issue in the same way and at no cost let my work suffer,” Kundan concludes stating a balance is essential. This attitude can help you in the long run. A few close friends at work are great, but getting too involved can get messy if you are the emotional kinds!
THE BOTTOM LINE
Whatever your relationships are at work, you must not forget at any point in time that you are at work for a purpose and to be useful. You have come there to get job satisfaction, monetary returns and, most importantly, professional growth. It is important to first know yourself, understand your office ethics and environment and then manage your relationships effectively.