Can You Be Friends With Your Coworkers?

"friends make life beautiful!"

Can You Be Friends With Your Coworkers?

Here are some generalizations about an average person's work-life balance. Say you start working when you're 21 and retire earliest at 40. A typical workday is 9 hours long and a typical work year has 260 working days. 

Given these inputs, it doesn't take a math whiz to figure out that you're going to be at work for 260*19*9 = 44460 hours minimum. This figure might make you cringe but here's the happy realization wrapped in shimmering papers of gold and silver. You spend most of your awake time at work. 

Let's also assume that humans are social animals and remember the overused cliche that "friends make life beautiful."

When you spend the whole day, staring into the screen and drumming away at your keyboard- receiving a friendly kick from underneath the cubicle stall wanting you to accompany them for a walk to discuss life outside work is a much-awaited relief. What happens at work can make or break your day - and friends at work can help stabilize the day for you by being there with you when your boss yells at you or on the contrary when you receive your letter of promotion. That being said, what's a better way to spend your Thursday and Friday nights - than with your work team sipping on beer and poking fun at your extremely demanding boss. 


All said and done, work friends come with a price. To start with, they're much harder to make than your usual dorm friends in college. We usually start working at a time where most of us already have lives of our own - so we tend to take a step back instead of making the extra effort to open up and let someone in.

However, if you're the more lucky one who always wins the local game of Housie, you find yourself sitting next an extremely empathetic teammate who takes an instant liking to you and invites you for lunch with her group of colleagues who you immediately click with and well then it's all rainbows and pots of gold. But in the case that that does not happen, this will. You will be judged right, left and center on your first day at work and unfortunately judgment day doesn't even end after you are all seized up and talked about on social media groups that you are yet to join. You still have to present your best, professional self and balance your work alongside of getting to know your team at a personal level. Take me back to the time when the toughest decision of the day was choosing one between several ice-cream flavours? If you spend too much time socializing - you're labeled as - well- a socialite, and too much time working - a loner? Work relationships require you to be tactful of the steps you take.

Remember knowing your colleague's job position and hobbies - doesn't make them a friend. You need to know them at a much deeper and more personal level - one that requires an abundance of time, effort, and sacrifice. Did you find yourself wishing for "real close work friends" without making the crucial investment of time? Be careful what you wish for - because then that "too-close, too-fast relationship" will be built on attraction or infatuation which can have more drawbacks than benefits. 

You befriend someone from an opposite sex, you'll get too close and start crushing on each other only to realize that your company policy doesn't allow employees to be in a relationship. Now what? What if the company does allow you or you'll pretend to be acquaintances at work - it's still going to be a hard knock life for you because studies show that only 1 in 5 work relationships last. This is because several problems - like those of having hierarchical positions at work, competition, seeing each other too much, putting all your eggs in one basket - crop up- eventually costing you both your relationship as well as your job. We haven't even accounted for the awkwardness of coming to work after a break-up when your ex is still your neighbour. 

Concluding, ask any old man and he'll second the familiar saying - if you have one friend - you are blessed, if you have two friends - you are lucky, if you have three friends - you are lying. We tend to misuse the term "friend" and use it for people who we hang out with every weekend night but have no clue about what we did all day. It all boils down to how we define friends and what our priorities are. There isn't one single answer to whether work relationships are a YES or a NO - because like most things in life - work friendships too have two sides of a coin - and it eventually depends on how you flip it. 

Pace your relationship, don't rush in too fast. Be genuine, don't put on a show, and if you're lucky your childhood best friend and you work the same job and later find yourselves sitting on the front porch sipping tea and grumbling about old age at 80.

And if you think luck isn't in your side - read Yashwant Chittal's acclaimed novel Shikari, set in the concrete jungles of Bombay, which weaves together the high-stakes conspiracies of the corporate world and the parochial intrigues of a close-knit community. 

Shikari is a monumental work in which Chittal, as far back as 1979, exposed the underbelly of the corporate world.

The book has been published by Penguin Random House, Delhi.

PS: This post has been written by Aradhita Saraf.

Will you be reading the book Shikari?