Be a Friend or Befriend?

When you start a new job there’s a temptation to befriend everyone.  The first couple weeks at a new job you’ll be asking for help, learning from seasoned employees, etc., and the temptation to want to “fit in” and be liked will be strong.  Here’s my caution: always be friendly but be careful who you befriend.  It’s important to treat all coworkers with respect and kindness.  Going out of your way to be friendly and make an effort will take you far.  I will caution you, though, not all coworkers make good friends.

The Bible says in Proverbs 13:20, “walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble.”  Recognize that it will take time to determine who is wise and who might be a fool.  It will take time to see who is genuine and who can be trusted.  Trusting or befriending the wrong people can ruin your reputation quickly.  

This was a lesson I learned the hard way.  I trusted a coworker and was trying to help them with an internal job opportunity.  I believed that she was my friend and would keep my help between us.  I was wrong.  What I realized later was that she was focused on herself and I was focused on her, but she wasn’t worried about what happened to me.  It cost me pretty dearly at the time, and more than that, it devastated me to be betrayed by a “friend.”  Now, though, I will tell you that I’m glad I learned the lesson.  Be friendly with everyone, friends with few.  I keep my coworker/friend circle tight and I’m careful not to take chances that could affect my career.  I try to make every day pleasant and fun for everyone I work with, but it’s a small group I spend time outside of work.

Here’s some advice for finding the right work friends:

  • Listen to what they say, then watch their behavior
  • Watch who else trusts them
  • Get to know them but take your time in doing so
  • Neither believe or discredit what you hear about someone’s reputation – pay attention but be fair

While not all of us will get to be “friends” with our boss, it’s a good idea to foster that relationship.  So try at the end of your first week to get a few minutes face-to-face with them. Ask them how they felt about your first week – things you did well or could do better.  Ask any questions you may have or express any concerns.  I recommend keeping all communication with higher ups concise, professional, non-emotional (as issues arise and have to be addressed), and, when possible, always focus more on the positive than negative aspects of your role.  Express gratitude.

Entering a new work environment is a fun challenge.  We hope as you start with your new company and coworkers you’ll enjoy getting to know them, learning the ropes, and can find the right group of people to spend your down time with.  Just remember to choose wisely who you get close to but to treat all people in a friendly manner.

Becca Christensen is a Crossroads Career Board Member and the editor of this blog since 2020. She recently moved into accounting within the automotive industry. She’s an avid reader, an enthusiastic football fan, and competitive at any and all board games.  

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Comments 1

  1. As a contractor for most of the last 25 years and working for multiple companies, I would enter a new job or company as an observer for the first 2-3 weeks. Doing my work and participating in meetings and reports but quietly observing the dynamics in place at the office and company before jumping into closer relationships with co-workers and management. This gave me the opportunity to see the cliques already established, know who did or did not like someone else, who the gossips were to avoid entanglement with, who could be trusted to keep their word, who was sincere in seeking friendship vs. who was climbing the ladder.
    As the newcomer this method allowed me to integrate into the office without being seen as too aggressive. The end results are long-lasting friendships with new co-workers that have lasted for decades. These friends have provided on-going support, networking, advice, and solid companionship even after people moved on to other positions.

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