Former Coworker – Meaning, Relationships & More

Maintaining a good relationship with a former coworker or colleague is hard. One of the most challenging parts of navigating a professional landscape is maintaining relationships with colleagues and former coworkers.

It’s not uncommon for coworkers to move on to other jobs, departments, or organizational locations. You may sometimes lose touch with previous colleagues as they transition from your company to another.   

Do you have a former coworker or colleague in your life that you’d like to stay in touch with? How can you maintain the relationship, even though you’re no longer in the same office? The following tips will be valuable to you.

1. Find Common Interests

Your friendship with a former coworker may naturally seem to be an awkward situation. You’ll have to find ways to make small talk and discuss things that are more personal than work-related. 

This can be difficult since it’s likely that the two of you will have different opinions on many topics. Yet, it’s important to try if you want to stay friends with one another.

Instead of focusing on what you don’t have in common, try to focus on what you have in common. If you both got along well, you likely share some interests. 

If you both have a knack for the same hobby, this is an excellent way to connect and find out how much fun you can have together. 

Doing this will allow you to get to know each other better and build trust in the relationship.

SEE: Here’s why its good to have good communication skills

2. Be Positive and Honest About Your Intentions

It may be tempting to be jealous of your former coworker, especially if they are in a better place. But instead of wallowing in their good fortune, focus on what you can learn from their success. 

If you are interested in a similar career path, it will help you to feel more confident about your plans. 

Also, be sure not to bring up anything negative about your former colleague or their new company, even if it’s something that bothers you. 

Instead, focus on how happy you are for them with their new position and their success at their new job (as the case may be). 

This will make them feel good about themselves, which is always good for any relationship.

SEE: Explore the most satisfying career development goals

3. Don’t Gossip About a Former Coworker

Gossiping is never a good idea in any situation, but it’s horrible if you’re trying to maintain a professional relationship with your former coworker.

You might be tempted to share gossip about coworkers who were fired or quit because of incompetence or misconduct. You might think that it’s harmless — after all, it’s only gossip. 

But it can be detrimental if you don’t know how much damage those words can do. If you want to be honest and help an ex-coworker struggling, talk directly with them instead of spreading false rumors. 

You might have more success pulling someone out of a rut by offering encouragement than by telling them about other people’s problems.

SEE: Explore the major types of employee harassment and how to deal with them

4. Keep in Contact Through Social Media

Social media is the perfect way to stay connected with a former coworker. You can share photos and updates on your life and keep tabs on their progress. 

It may be hard at first, but it will help heal the wounds of a relationship that was once so close. If you keep in touch, you’ll have a better idea of how their new job is going and what challenges they may face daily. 

If you’re unsure how or where to start, consider using LinkedIn or Facebook Groups. These groups are specifically for people who work together at a company, meaning they’re likely to know each other very well. 

These groups can help you stay in touch with former colleagues while retaining access to your current employer’s resources.

5. Send Occasional Meaningful Emails

Even if you’re not in touch with your former coworker, staying connected is still important. Sending a thoughtful email shows that you care about them and their well-being.

These can be short, sweet, and simple, like:

“Hey! How are you doing? I miss talking to you!”

“I just wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed working with you and wish we could have stuck together longer. You were a great mentor when I was new at the company.”

It’s easy for coworkers to drift apart after leaving a job. But making an effort to stay connected shows that you also care about their lives outside of work. 

SEE: Compare the best email marketing software and platforms

6. Let Go of Grudges and Resentments

You may not want to admit it, but sometimes you can feel bitter and resentful toward a former coworker. But the truth is, if you don’t let go of those feelings, it can damage your professional relationships. 

As with any new relationship, it’s important to maintain a healthy working relationship with your former coworkers. You don’t want to let past resentments and grudges poison future interactions with them. 

Let go of grudges and resentments: if you’re still angry at someone from the past, it’s probably best not to bring it up in conversation or show any signs of being angry or upset around that person. 

Maintaining these negative feelings will make it difficult for both parties to feel comfortable around each other.

Additionally, it will make it difficult for either party to move on without feeling like they’re still stuck in an old relationship (or worse).

SEE: Explore conflict management styles

7. Don’t be the Person Who Only Needs Favors

Do you spend your time flitting between coworkers? It’s the easiest way to burn bridges and disrupt relationships. 

Don’t come to others asking for favors if you just want favors. It can easily backfire and make the other person feel like they are being used. 

Instead, connect with a coworker once a year and ensure you’re delighted to see them. Don’t only reach out when you need some loan or favor; learn to add value to them.

8. Attend Professional Events Together

Mentoring relationships are essential. Consider inviting the former coworker to a lunch or dinner event of your own and ask what they are doing. 

It can be an excellent opportunity to discuss trends, news, and topics that you feel might benefit your coworker. It’s also a great way to stay on their mind, helping them keep up with everything in their field. 

Show the former coworker that you’re interested in fostering a healthy relationship by attending professional events together. This can include conferences, speaking engagements, and business social gatherings.

SEE: Learn more about professional learning communities

9. Join Outside Activities with Your Former Coworker

As long as your friendship is not one-sided and neither of you is trying to manufacture drama, it’s a great idea to go outside activities with your former coworker. 

They will feel like part of the family, which may make them change their ways when they see how they were treated. 

Give yourself a chance to reduce your anxiety. Join outside activities with your former coworker. For example, you could start a book club or a gourmet cooking group open to all former coworkers. 

Getting together for coffee or playgroup will give you more opportunities to discuss your shared experiences, ideas, and dreams.

SEE: Explore employee wellness programs to be more efficient at work

10. Don’t Force Friendship with a Former Coworker if They Don’t Want it

If you’ve been friends with a former coworker, it can be tempting to try to keep the friendship going. If they aren’t interested in more than casual conversation, it might be better to move on.

You don’t want to be someone who forces their way into someone’s life and demands they see you as part of their family.

While it’s perfectly okay if they reach out and want to be friends again, don’t assume they will just because they once worked together. 

The best way to get back on track with your former coworkers is by doing what you can to make them happy. You do not need to put pressure on yourself or others about how much time should be spent together as friends or family members. 

SEE: Learn how to handle liking a coworker the right way

FAQs

Which is more suitable: former coworker or ex-coworker?

A former coworker is more appropriate if you are writing business letters or talking to a superior. It is more informal and casual to call a former colleague an ex-coworker.

How often should you be in touch with a former coworker?

Although you may feel that you need to be in regular contact with a former coworker, setting boundaries and maintaining a healthy distance is essential. The decision of how often to communicate is up to each person individually.

Why maintain a relationship with your former coworker anyway?

Maintaining a relationship with a former coworker is about recognizing and appreciating all the good qualities they brought you during your time together. 

Final Thoughts 

My primary advice for anyone trying to establish a healthy relationship with a former coworker is to be careful not to burn bridges. 

Your approach will depend on various factors, and the best route will vary based on your situation. The key to a healthy working friendship is keeping communication open and honest in any relationship. 

Maintain a positive attitude, and remember that although your work relationship may have ended, your friendship doesn’t have to follow suit. 

These tips should help you better manage your new friendship’s emotional and professional sides.

If you are a manager or employer, there are some cases where you will have to deal with an employee who wants to quit or whom you want to fire.

However, you must learn how to do it right so all parties are at peace. To learn how to do it right, read the article on how to handle employee offboarding perfectly.

Thanks for reading.