Partners in Crime: Fostering Lasting Bonds with a Work Friend


I hear a lot of people say, “work is work and you should keep your life separate from your job.” I don’t know if that’s always the best strategy. It’s important to have a best friend at work. A work friend is admittedly not the same as the person who you go out on the town with or share your most personal secrets. Instead a work friend is someone that has your back and is loyal to you. I have been lucky to have amazing allies at work that have made terrible jobs bearable and jobs that have been great even better. So, thinking about your professional life, how can you tell if a person is a true ally or someone with a hidden agenda?

  • Does the person allow you to complain or get anything off your chest? I had a situation where I worked with an individual that I felt would constantly “target” me – it felt like she had a weird obsession. I inadvertently would talk about how horrible she made me feel because of my own nervous energy around her. My work friend would let me talk and get whatever I felt off my chest without judgment.
  • Is the person positive to be around? People have bad days but if the other person only talks about someone else in a bad light and is constantly gossiping – this is likely not the best person to be around. I find that if they are doing this with you, they are likely also gossiping about you with someone else.
  • Is the individual competitive with you? I had a colleague that I used to work with who at first I thought was an ally, but soon I realized that whenever I would “accomplish” something, they would constantly try to “one up” me. It was exhausting. Your work BFF should celebrate what you offer and you should celebrate what they offer, not try to compete with them.
  • Does the individual have your back when you are not looking? If you give it time, a person’s true colors will rise to the surface. The best work friends I have had the privilege of knowing would always defend me even if I were not there. This is something that comes with trust and it should go both ways. Advocating for each other is always useful, and it’s good to know there’s a friendly voice in the conversation when you’re not present.
  • Does the individual take you out of the building? I had a moment at work recently where I would struggle to keep my composure. At times I would become overwhelmed with sadness and whenever I would start getting to that point, my wonderful best friend would suddenly need to go out for a site visit, go for a quick walk, or be in the mood for a restaurant served lunch so I would have a means to get some space and regain my composure.

A good friend is more than just a connection. They are a sounding board when you need to vent, a beacon to help you reframe your negative thoughts, a cheerleader when you accomplish a goal, an ally when you need assistance, and a lifesaver when you really need one. As always, the road to friendship is a two-way road and so I encourage you to not only evaluate your own professional relationships but also reach out to someone new and try to fill as many of these roles as you can.

Lekshmy Sankar is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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