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How to Set Boundaries With a Coworker Friend

Posted on February 8, 2024 in Employment Law

Americans spend a lot of time at work. And we often stay in contact with those we work with around the clock in an age of telecommuting. Work friendships can be a source of job satisfaction, making work a place we look forward to spending our day.

In the world outside the office, it’s simple to back away from the connections that fail to foster a healthy environment. This space is not always available with coworker friendships that sour. Setting boundaries in coworker friendships may protect your job and prevent stressful or even hostile work environments.

Keep Conversations Neutral

Stress creeps into work, no matter how much you enjoy your job. Individuals with varying ideas, thought processes, and problem-solving methods may conflict. These tense moments even occur with the people we care most about.

However, the words you share with a coworker friend in these times can come back to haunt you. Disrespectful conversations about coworkers and management can severely impact your career and job performance. Keep conversations about others neutral so your words are never used against you. The feeling of anger for a difficult coworker often passes, but the damaging words will linger.

Consider the Information You Share

Everyone has personal information they would rather the entire world or office not know about. Sometimes, we may struggle with personal, impactful decisions. Before sharing the most intimate details of your life or listening to a coworker’s story, think if you would share the conversation in a group meeting with your peers or feel it acceptable for someone else to share, and if not, keep the information to yourself to foster stronger boundaries.

Understand Your Role as a Leader

If you have made it to a leadership or management position in your company, it is vital to maintain a professional relationship with each team member. A significant reason to set boundaries with coworker friends is that you are expected to treat those who work under you equally. Each team member should feel they have the same access to you as a leader, and relationships without boundaries with one team member may foster feelings of animosity that stifle a cohesive work environment or lead to a coworker feeling pressured to perform a certain way to better their position.

Change Up Your Routine

Falling into a routine happens naturally, and we often bond with coworkers because their routine mirrors our own. Finding yourself with the same coworker at lunch, on breaks, or any other time may be a signal to switch up your day. Make a conscious effort to include someone else in the group or take a quiet lunch alone to create professional boundaries that protect your work environment from personal conflict.

Be Honest

The old saying goes that honesty is the best policy. If boundaries with a coworker friend get blurry, just say so. The ability to communicate effectively will take you a long way. Consider saying:

  • I appreciate your trust in me, but this is personal information that you might wish you had not shared with me later.
  • My role as a team leader requires me to treat each member equally.
  • I need to rearrange my break schedules for now, but maybe we can grab lunch as a group later.

Create boundaries in the workplace to prevent coworker relationships from becoming less professional. Enjoying the people you work with fosters an enjoyable work environment, but when boundaries are crossed, it can require help from a San Diego employment law attorney to repair a work environment that turns toxic.

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