Being Friendly vs. Being Friends

At the Public Managers Annual Conference we heard the importance of being kind. Sometimes it’s hard to be nice when we don’t like or get along with coworkers. It doesn’t take a policy like professionalism in the workplace to tell us we need to be friendly and polite at work. We need to have a working relationship with our coworkers and that requires you to interact and work together. But what do we do with that just isn’t happening? Here are some tips.

Meet on neutral territory

Get off the property. Go for a walk. Go to lunch and have a conversation. Be kind and open and ask 1) how do you find working with me? 2) What can I do to help our working relationship? Listen to what’s shared. There is always something we can work on and improve. Realize that you don’t have to apologize. You are trying to move forward with more kindness and friendliness in the workplace. Find your courage to say 1) in order to do my best work I need you to… 2) It upsets me when you do… Find ways to share your concerns with each other and together come up with possibilities and solutions.

Set Boundaries

I often say, “teach people how to treat you.” If you have a micro-manager that needs frequent updates and you find that it stops your work flow and interferes with your momentum, set up regular meetings (weekly, bi-weekly) to give status updates. If your most productive in the morning and have a coworker who always wants to chit chat when you come in, set time an hour or two after you get in with that person to take a quick 15 coffee break and share stories with each other.


Find a safe haven

If getting along with someone is interfering with your productivity, ask to work a different schedule or work remotely one day a week. If it’s possible, change where you sit. Work to limit your direct contact with that person and limit your interactions as much as possible. It’s not being mean or unkind, it’s reducing the contact that could lead to frustration or anger or tension and anxiety.

You don’t have to be friends

In the strengths work I do with teams, we stress the importance of acknowledging each other’s’ differences and appreciating those with different strengths than ours. Together we are stronger when we bring our different strengths to the table. If we were all the same we wouldn’t be a very well rounded nor effective team. Finding common ground is also something I stress in the team building work I do. Find opportunities and ways to learn about each other. Take work time to do activities that help us discover coming interests and areas of connection. This not only helps us get along with others different than us, it helps to build trust.

Having a best friend at work is linked to better employee engagement. And if you have someone like that, it’s a wonderful thing. It’s important to understand that we don’t need a team of best friends to be engaged and do good work. We need to be friendly to others in the workplace. We don’t have to be friends.

If you have tips that help lesson workplace dislikes, please share them with me!

Inspiration for this post came from this article at CNN Business.


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