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“Frolleagues?” Can You Really Be Friends With Your Co-Workers?

Friends with Coworkers

It took a little more than two years, but I’ve come to realize that I really, really like the people I work with.

Dare I say it? After two years, I now feel comfortable calling my ‘work friends’ simply ‘friends’ without the word ‘work’ in front of the ‘friend’ part. But can you truly ever become good friends with colleagues? Is it even a good idea to become good friends with a colleague? Well, at the very least, I like to think of my colleagues as frolleagues (half friend/half colleague.)

I’ve always liked my colleagues, but I’ve never considered them really good friends, or at least not the type of friend I can call crying at 5 am saying, ‘Can I come over to use your shower? I have no hot water!’ (which did actually happen a couple months ago). I drove in my bathrobe to my best friend’s house, took a 10-minute shower, and drove back home in my bathrobe. My friend, after finding me more conditioner, handed it to me as I was buck naked. I didn’t care, because she’s my best friend, not someone I had to see in the office an hour later. No, none of my colleagues have seen me naked.

Still, when you work closely with people, you can’t help but learn, at least a little, about their personal life. I know their husbands’ names, I know their children’s names, and when I was away on vacation, I missed them enough to stalk them on social media to see what they were doing and to wish them a happy holiday. I did it, not because I felt an obligation to, but because I realized I truly was…fond…of my colleagues.

But, no matter how much you may like your colleagues, it is a tricky relationship, isn’t it?

Being a good team player who’s amicable is key, of course. But a recent survey of 3,000 full-time American workers finds that while 82% say they consider their coworkers “friends,” a deeper dive reveals that only 15% of these on-the-job buds are considered “real friends,” and barely half of the employees surveyed feel comfortable talking to their coworker cronies about their love lives or health issues, according to this article.

So can work friends be real friends? Obviously, yes. There are a group of young women in my office who not only work together, but brunch together on weekends, text each other at night to discuss reality television, work out together, and eat lunch together. They are not just ‘work’ friends. They are truly friends and confess things to each other about their marriages and relationships that I, personally, probably wouldn’t. (Not that I don’t LOVE hearing their stories. Keep ’em coming!)

Let’s also be real. There is usually always one over-sharer in the office. That one who makes you think, “No, no no! Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! That’s for your therapist, not your colleagues!” Personally, I’ve always preferred to keep my work and personal life compartmentalized. When I want to bitch about the ex, cry because I’m overwhelmed, or want to get stupid drunk because I need it, I don’t call my colleagues. I call my friends, and I’ll never ever worry that I’m saying something totally inappropriate. I’m not so sure how well my dark sense of humour would really go over with my colleagues, so I keep my totally politically-incorrect jokes out of the office. The last thing I want is people gossiping, “Can you believe that Eckler just said that? What is wrong with her?” So, no, no one at my office knows the real, real me.

In this article, it lists the Pros and Cons of Becoming Friends With Coworkers, including “Points to Remember When Friending a Coworker.” It reads, “even when you’re friends with a coworker, you should hold back on divulging too much information. Things to keep to yourself include:

1) Anything related to money, including salary and financial history
2) Sexual history
3) Illness or health concerns
4) Details of your job performance reports or reviews
5) Personal issues that might cause problems for you at work”

Have I followed all of these? Almost entirely, yes. Although a colleague, who I must consider a friend, did ask me if I ever had a threesome and I answered honestly, mostly because we were on a team building trip and I *may* have had one too many drinks, or maybe it’s because I do really consider her a friend, more than a colleague. In any case, now this frolleague knows the answer to that.

Just before the holidays, my immediate boss – the one who brought me into the SavvyMom team – invited me for lunch, just the two of us. I was excited because I considered her a friend before she became my boss, and then when she became my boss, the relationship changed. Not in a bad way. It just shifted. I knew, because I have common sense, that I could no longer get stupid drunk in front of her at office parties or events, had to be careful about talking about other people in the office, and make sure I didn’t overshare or say something that I may regret.

I’m paraphrasing, but when my ex came up in conversation, she couldn’t believe it had been eight months since my break up and said something like, “I wanted to ask you what was going on when I didn’t see you wearing your engagement ring anymore, but I didn’t want to pry.”

“I suffered a lot this year. But you will never see me cry at the office. I will never go out of my way to speak about the demise of our relationship, unless someone asks,” I told her. Even when the bottom was falling out of my life, my colleagues only knew about it when I wrote about it. At home, I was a hot mess. But at the office? I showed up on time, put on heels, smiled and I kept that ‘home’ part of my life far away from my office life. I have no problem with colleagues asking about my life, but, no, I’m not going to be the one to bring it up first.

I also don’t necessarily consider the Head Boss Man, who runs the entire company, a friend, but I do consider him a frolleague. Over the years, I have started to e-mail him new restaurant recommendations and funny Youtube videos (Well, *I* think they’re funny. He may not. See how tricky it is when it comes to office friends?) Who knows? Maybe I’m overstepping my boundaries, which is why work friendships can be tricky. I’ve come to consider the editor-in-chief of SavvyMom such a good frolleague, so much that I found myself thinking, “Oh she’d like this book!” that I had been reading on vacation. But I didn’t text her the book I was reading, because what if she only thinks of me as a work friend and would be all like, “Why the hell is she texting me! I’m on vacation!”

My frolleagues, as I love to call them now, have recommended dermatologists, hairdressers, movies, hotels, gyms.

“Thanks for being one of my favourite people in the office and for making me laugh!” was a card I opened and read that was left on my desk this morning from one of my frolleagues. I thought it was beyond sweet. Funnily enough, this card was from one of my favourite people in the office, too. So, yes, I guess I’m a frolleague too.

But don’t worry. I won’t ever ask to use your shower.

Are you friends with the people you work with, or do you prefer to keep your personal life separate from your work life?


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