Your Colleagues are NOT your Friends

Or maybe they are!

Friendly colleagues

Most organizations are high pressured. The 8-5 thingy is long gone, and for organizations that are still compliant to this timeline, to resume for work at eight means you must have left your home by 7 at the earliest. And if you live in traffic filled Lagos and have to do the Island-Mainland commute, chances are you have to leave your home as early as 5am in some cases and you’re getting home by 8-9pm on a good traffic day. So if you factor in your commute time you see your job isn’t really an 8-5, more like a 4am to 10pm (preparation time included).

For some who are lucky to live in the same neighborhood as their colleagues, carpooling is an option. This in effect will mean you are with your colleagues from as early as 5:30am as the case may be until about 10pm. The argument is; since you spend most of your time at work and with your colleagues, why can’t you be friends with them? Valid question.

The thing however is, the work environment is very competitive and you can only be friends in every sense of the word if you don’t report to the same boss and there is never a reason to compare you both. Which in most organizations with cross functional teams is almost impossible.

I cannot totally rule out office friendships, being that the strength or otherwise of any friendship is dependent on the level of maturity of the parties involved. But the thing with the variety grown in the office is it’s subject to all the roforofo that goes with the office environment. Can you objectively assess your friend (if the relationship is across cadres), or if there’s just a spot to move up as there often is; will you let your friend get it or will your friendship be done in as a result of the competition to move up?

I have a friend which the friendship grew in the office space. Matter of fact a lot of our colleagues couldn’t get over how close the sisterhood grew to be. Not just were we within the same department, we were also from different cultures. We’re no longer colleagues but have remained friends. But some friendships haven’t been so successful. Take the story of Jane and Mary* who were colleagues, friends, and sisters. They both resumed for duty on the same day, their husbands knew each other, and everyone knew them as friends. Until their immediate supervisor resigned and their manager needed to make a decision on who will step into the vacant role. The manager chose to place them on a rotational probation; they took turns being supervisors. Before long, cracks appeared in their relationship. It was obvious a decision will be made one day and each of them wanted the decision to be in their favor. They began competing, each trying to outshine each other and when the decision was made in neither of their favor, the friendship had been ruined.

Like I said earlier, the office environment is one filled with intrigues, drama, competition, etc., and it’s easy to see how friendships will be lost in a bid to get ahead. The male folk tend to be able to manage this things better (guys don’t have wahala). Like someone said to me; ‘if I can’t make friends with my colleagues whom I spend the greater part of my day with, then I won’t have friends’. I agree totally, but with a caveat; remember, you are colleagues first before friends.

This article isn’t meant to scare you off friendly relations with your colleagues, for like every relationship; the work space relationship has its own challenges as well. It’s rather meant to remind you; Your colleagues are NOT your friends.

Have a great day.

xoxo chinma

*Not real name

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