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There are a lot of advantages in having work friendships, but are yours holding you back?

By Orlaugh Reynolds, Senior Business Director

 

We often become good friends with the people that work both with and for us – even our bosses. But, while that may be a great thing for improving your happiness at work, and even making us feel more fulfilled, could these friendships be inadvertently acting as a barrier to career progress?

 But what if you were to be offered a job elsewhere?

Naturally, you’ll want to take up the opportunity, but on the other hand, you may feel guilty about leaving your work friends behind. Maybe you’re scared that they’ll feel you’ve betrayed your friendship if you leave them?

There are several benefits of having friends at work

  • Those who did make meaningful friendships at work, more than seven in 10 said it made them enjoy their job more.
  • 38% said they can always rely on such friends if anything goes wrong.
  • 36% said it made getting out of bed in the morning much easier.

None of these findings should be greatly surprising. Friendships in any context – never mind just at work – can make us feel happier and more fulfilled. What’s more, having friends at work can even contribute to our professional effectiveness and success. In fact, people with a ‘best friend at work’ are seven times as likely to be engaged in their job. Similarly, friendships with colleagues can also make us feel a higher level of job satisfaction, and less impacted by stress – they can also assist you in setting boundaries and adapting to change, too.

Do you feel bad changing Jobs?
This can be a common feeling for many people who are considering making a job switch, due to the loyalty that they may feel to those they have made friends with at their current workplace. However, that shouldn’t make you feel so loyal to your co-workers that you find it unimaginable to ever leave the company yourself – and you certainly shouldn’t feel that leaving your present employer would constitute ‘turning your back on’ or ‘betraying’ your friends.

On the other hand, the chance may arise for you to jump up to a role that might not be open to you at your present employer, for example, or even to expand your skillset or experience a different culture in another part of the world. So, don’t see your friendships at work as a barrier to your progression, see them as a positive force in your work-life – one that has made your experience at work more fulfilled and happy.

How to tell your work friends and handle your impending exit well

Firstly, tell your boss: By letting your boss know first will allow you to decide how the news will be communicated more widely throughout the business, including your friends. It’s also important to maintain the relationship you have with them, as you never know how your professional paths may cross in the future.

Then, tell your co-workers – closest friends first: Once you’ve notified your boss that you’re leaving, you’ll be able to reveal the news to your colleagues, and it’s a good idea to start with those old friends who may already suspect you’ve been thinking about leaving. When you do, focus on what excites you about the opportunity ahead, and try to remain professional and committed right until your last day.

 

Be careful about what you share with certain work friends: Each friendship is different; while some of the friends you have in the workplace you could share more-or-less anything with, whilst others could later compromise you if you say the wrong thing in private – such as complaints about the boss or about how you “can’t wait to get out of here”.

Tell your work friends that you will keep in contact: Crucially, keep your promise. Remind them, too, that your paths may cross professionally again. For example, at other companies, trade shows or conferences, and you will want to keep all potential future opportunities open to you. By continuing to maintain friendships with those that you no longer work with, then, could also help to keep your broader professional network strong.

Don’t overthink their reactions to the news that you’re leaving: Some of your friends at work will be genuinely excited for you, while others may be more resentful. Remember that the ability to adapt to change is something we all need in our personal and professional lives alike. Therefore, if applicable, transferring clients and projects to your co-workers in as seamless and stable way as possible, so that everyone will be able to manage the transition of your exit gracefully.

Changing jobs doesn’t have to ruin friendships

If your friends at work are true friends, your friendships with them will last long after you’ve left the business. So, don’t let your work friendships hold you back from developing your career and overall goals.

About this author

Orlagh Reynolds is a Senior Business Director leading a team of Hays recruiting specialists across Office Support, Accountancy & Finance, Senior Finance HR and Procurement and Supply Chain. Orlagh has over 16 years’ experience in the recruitment industry, in both Ireland and Australia, and is based in our Dublin office.

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