“Could you give me advice for working with friends?”
This is one question that I get a lot, especially since my best friend and I actually work together and for the first seven months of our careers we were working on the same team. So, what do you do if you work with a friend?
Fact: working with friends in a professional capacity is a game changer. It will never be as simple as you think it will be. Why? Because the balance has shifted into a realm that you may not have experienced before or know what to do with. You’re in a new environment, with a new set of expectations and challenges before you even bring your friendship into the picture. Navigating that is difficult enough without the complication of friendship coming in to play.
Once you bring a pre-existing friendship into the mix, it will be impossible to keep your professional and personal lives separate. And that’s a super hard adjustment for some people!
I’m so excited to bring you the first part of four in my Politics of Friendship series, “Your Best Advice for Working with Friends!”
1. Consider your professional relationship.
This is the most important piece of advice for working with friends that I could give you because it will inform everything else that you do! Outside of your friendship, what is your professional relationship? Are you going to be in charge of your friend, are they going to be in charge of you, or are you going to be equals? Each situation has its own set of challenges that you’ll have to work out and consider before moving forward given your personal relationship with your friend.
[ Read On : 5 Things to Do Your First Week On the Job ]
Think about what challenges you might face as a result of your personalities and your new professional relationship. How would you react if your friend had to sit you down and tell you that you weren’t doing a good job, or vice versa? What happens if one of you receives an opportunity and the other one doesn’t? How competitive are you in the workplace, and how will you reconcile this with your friendship? Are there any aspects of your friendship that you’re going to need to adjust to maintain a level of professionalism? These are just a few questions you need to ask yourself before you read on about advice for working with friends. Consider everything that could possibly come up in this new capacity!
2. Lay down ground rules.
This is the next most important piece of advice for working with friends that you need to follow. Ground rules are absolutely key. Remember when you lived on campus your first year of college and your RA required you to fill out a roommate contract that would establish an agreement on certain topics for you and your roommate? Think of this in a similar fashion, but maybe take it a bit more seriously.
Realistically, you’re going to be working with your friend for a way longer amount of time, day in and day out, that you would normally see them in any given day. For me, my best friend and I worked on the same team and we saw each other for 9 hours a day, five days a week, for seven months straight — that’s a lot of time, and depending on your work that may be what you’re looking at. You’re going to need to be on the same page for how you’ll deal with things that could possibly come up!Making sure you and your friend are on the same page before you start working together can help you avoid awkward or uncomfortable situations down the road. Click To Tweet
I’ll admit, when my best friend and I first started working, it never occurred to us that we needed to do this. But working on the same team led to a lot of questions that we didn’t have answered when the time came. For instance, how do we talk about each other’s successes? Working on the same team meant there was only so much responsibility to go around, and often meant that if one of us was given an opportunity then the other one wasn’t. We never established how we wanted to talk about that and it led to me not knowing how to communicate without feeling like I was bragging. If we had laid down ground rules we could have avoided this!
3. Keep it professional.
Having a pre-existing personal relationship with someone that you work with can often blur the lines between what is and isn’t acceptable in a professional environment. One of the most important pieces of advice for working with friends that you can remember is that while at work, work comes first.
Bragging to a group of people about how you used to go out and get slammed every weekend while you were in college together, or about all the bad decisions that you made, or even about the bad decisions you’re currently making on the weekends isn’t a great way to establish your professional brand to people that you don’t know. Make sure that you’re both on the same page about what topics are and are not okay to reference during work or to tell other people about!
[ Read On : How to Build Your Professional Brand ]
Once you establish yourself as friends from before you started working your professional brands will officially tied together. This means that if your friend constantly behaves in a professional manner around their coworkers and managers and puts out good work, people are going to assume that you conduct yourself in a similar manner even if they don’t know you. But if you decide to behave unprofessionally around coworkers and are constantly talking about inappropriate topics at work, not only will that affect how you’re perceived, but that behavior will also be associated with your friend, too.
4. Support each other.
If you want your friendship to survive the trials that come with working with each other, then supporting each other is another extremely important piece of advice for working with friends that you need to follow. Ultimately you both want — and in reality, need — to be successful at your work in order to continue to grow in your professional careers. And you’re going to need to help each other get there.
When you have an pre-established friendship with a coworker, you either actively support each other or you don’t, there isn’t an in between! And if you’re not actively supporting each other your friendship will not last long!
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Make sure that you’re always the first person to offer help to your friend if they’re working on a difficult project, or make sure that they know that you’re always there for them to bounce ideas off of and brainstorm if they need to problem-solve. If they’re hosting a lunch and learn, make sure you’re encouraging people to attend and that you’re actively participating in their discussions! After all, that’s your best friend up there!
If they’re supporting you, make sure to give credit where credit is due. Did they give you that great idea that really impressed your managers in your presentation? You may have executed it, but make sure to acknowledge that your friend helped you. It can only bring both of you up higher.
5. Communicate openly with each other.
Open communication is the foundation of any healthy relationship and this situation warrants nothing different. Not following this piece of advice for working with friends will, honestly, end up being the reason your friendship doesn’t survive your career!
We all get burnt out, we all get frustrated, and we all have times when we don’t know how to deal with that. And we have all had times where we’ve taken our frustrations out on another person. But guess what? In any environment this behavior is unacceptable, but especially in an professional one. And in these situations you’re more likely to take out your frustration on your friend than a coworker.Open communication is the halmark of any successful friendship and is incredibly important when you're in a high-stress environment like work! Click To Tweet
This is why open communication is so important. You should be able to tell your friend if you need some space or if they’re doing something that is upsetting you, just like they should be able to have the same discussion with you. Not talking about problems you’re having will just cause them to fester which will negatively affect both your friendship and your ability to work!