Friend and Colleague: What’s The Difference?

Wondering what the difference is between a friend and a colleague or if socializing with a coworker makes you friends? 

Well, while it is possible to become close friends with a colleague at work, it usually isn’t advisable. Unless you were friends before getting a job at the same organization, befriending a coworker may come with various disadvantages. 

This article explores the difference between a friend, colleague, and coworker, and the disadvantages of being friends with a colleague at work. 

Difference between co-workers, colleagues, and friends

Compared to a coworker, which is typically used for persons who share a workplace or duties, a friend is a person you are close with and enjoy spending time with but is typically not related to you. 

FRIEND AND COLLEAGUE - LMSHERO

Colleague, on the other hand, is more typically used in professional contexts and occasionally refers to individuals who work in the same field but may not work for the same organization.

Generally speaking, a colleague is someone with whom you share common professional objectives. Coworkers, however, are individuals who are employed by the same company, regardless of their differences in jobs, abilities, or positions.   

Regardless of who they work for, colleagues typically have comparable or complimentary roles and positions similar to yours. 

However, while coworkers are employed by the same company, their functions and positions can differ greatly. 

Colleagues are typically neither superior nor inferior to you in status within a company, while coworkers may have professional authority over you or may have more entry-level responsibilities than you.

SEE: Former Coworker – Meaning, Relationships & More

Can colleagues be friends?

Yes, work colleagues can be friends.

A greater sense of trust at work can result from having friends among your coworkers. It could be easier to have faith in your coworkers if you have a deeper understanding of their personalities, motivations, and viewpoints. 

Additionally, it increases productivity levels and facilitates better communication, engagement, cooperation, and support. 

Why can you not classify coworkers as friends? 

Despite the fact that coworkers frequently share a wide variety of interests and experiences, there is only collegiality at work, not friendship. It’s clear that progress is the primary objective of the majority of people at work. 

1. It might be for selfish interests 

By mingling with you and others at the office, colleagues become visible to the important players in the organization and receive the appropriate exposure. This will put them in a position to obtain promotions and other benefits from their superiors. 

While some of your coworkers employ appropriate and legal tactics to accomplish this visibility, others will use any means necessary.

This includes pretending to be friends and using you as a stepping stone. Being a friend with such a colleague will therefore do you more harm than good.

2. It might not be genuine

It’s important to keep in mind that becoming a friend with a colleague at work differs significantly from working with friends. You can’t choose your coworkers in the same way you choose your friends or your career. 

Workplace friendship most times ends when it no longer becomes beneficial. Maybe you once used to help them complete their tasks, but the moment you stop, the relationship stops and they keep their distance. 

Hence, you shouldn’t ever make the mistake of overestimating the level of friendship your coworker at work has.  

3. It mostly relies on benefits 

At work, developing relationships is not a social activity. It is simply intended to assist you in achieving your personal and professional objectives. 

Therefore, in an effort to appreciate your job and your coworkers, don’t hold them to the same standards that you would your friends.

Advantages of being friends with colleagues

Making friends with your colleagues at the office might motivate you and give you the energy to work all day. 

It could also give you a feeling of worth and belonging at work and improve your capacity to stay focused.

Additionally, friendship with colleagues at work could help with engagement concerns and give you a chance to feel more invested in your work.

Are there disadvantages to being friends with colleagues?

Yes, you could encounter various drawbacks from developing friendships with your coworkers depending on contextual elements.

The following are some drawbacks of making friends with work colleagues:

1. Distractions

Colleagues turned friends at work might cause distractions that may affect your productivity, efficiency, and capacity to generate high-quality work.

2. Inability to receive constructive criticism 

You might generally get less constructive criticism from your coworkers if you’re buddies with them. 

This is because it might be difficult for friends to genuinely assess each other’s performances and offer constructive criticism. 

Hence, your coworkers may hinder your capacity to spot potential weak points and advance in your career.

SEE: Constructive Criticism: Importance, Best Practices & More

3. Professionalism

Treating one another respectfully among coworkers in client-facing jobs is essential to provide clients with a positive, trustworthy encounter. 

Friendships at work can lead to a lowering of restraint and boundaries, which might increase the likelihood of inappropriate encounters.  

You can decide to avoid connections with your employees or colleagues if you work in such a position or if professionalism is important to you personally.

SEE: Employee Engagement Tools That Work And Build Your Company Culture

4. It affects work-life balance 

You need to strike a healthy work-life balance in order to have enough time for both your personal and professional life. Maintaining a feeling of balance can enhance your focus, mental well-being, and career happiness.

However, when you make friends with colleagues at the workplace, you tend to spend more time at the office hanging out with them. 

You might also spend more time discussing work-related issues outside work thereby shifting the work-life balance away from your personal life. 

SEE: How To Handle Office Relationships

5. Privacy

To prevent awkward situations, some professionals choose not to discuss their families, relationships, or extracurricular activities in depth.

However, it could be difficult to maintain this degree of secrecy if you are friends with your coworkers.

FAQs

Can you date a colleague?

There shouldn’t be a problem with dating a coworker as long as you can keep up your previous professional habits.

Is it advisable to date a colleague?

Dating a coworker may not always be a great idea. Even if you have a harmless work crush on someone, keep it to a minimum and don’t cross the line.

How do you deal with a coworker who wants to be your friend?

If you want and are capable of handling such a friendship, you may proceed. However, if you’re not interested and wish to avoid future problems, you can speak to them honestly, respect their feelings, and establish new boundaries.

Conclusion

While it is a good thing to socialize at the workplace to foster better teamwork, friendship with a coworker is not advisable.

Not only might it affect your concentration and performance, but it might also lead to your privacy being invaded. 

If you wish to reject the friend request of a colleague but do not have the courage to tell them, you can take the indirect approach. This involves taking measures such as avoiding them and keeping busy with other things.

This method is effective in avoiding conflict and minimizing hurt feelings. It could minimize the occurrence of workplace harassment. 

I hope you found this article helpful. You can also read about employee harassment and how to deal with it. 

Thanks for reading.