Did you know that we spend an average of one third of our lives at work? And as writer Annie Dillard had said: “how we spend our days is… how we spend our lives.” So it’s no wonder that our job satisfaction can play a huge role in our overall happiness in life.
One of the biggest contributors to our enjoyment at work is the quality of our relationships with our colleagues. I’ve been lucky enough to work with some amazingly talented and kind people, many of whom I’ve stayed in touch with and consider friends.
In today’s post, I’ll be sharing my tips for how to make friends at work, or at least make your work interactions more pleasant.
How to Make Friends at Work Video
If you’d rather watch this in video form, here’s my video.
On to the tips!
#1. Take advantage of transitions.
When you’re joining a new team or company, I find one of the best things to do is to set up orientation or one-to-one meetings with people that you’re going to be working closely with. Whether it be a formal chat, coffee meeting, or onboarding call, these touchpoints help to establish solid working relationships. They also help you get to know the people that you’ll be working with, understand what their objectives are, and learn about the projects they have on the go.
You can ask them about their preferred working style so that you can work better together in the future. For example, are they more of an email person? Do they prefer phone calls? Or would they rather you stop by if you have a question? This shows that you care about working with them and will really lay the groundwork for a more productive relationship.
Lastly, at this point, you can also get to know them a little bit more personally. While you obviously don’t want to ask probing questions, find out what they’re up to this weekend, or any trips or vacations they have planned. The key is to get to know them as a person and not simply a [insert job title here].
#2. Be helpful.
Being helpful comes naturally to many of us, but it’s something that can easily be forgotten when we’re really busy.
Keep an eye (or ear!) out for opportunities to help others on your team. Let’s say, for example, that you’re in a team meeting and a new team member seems to be confused by the number of acronyms being thrown around. You can explain things to them afterwards, or even stop the discussion and bring the new person up to speed and give them the context they need to get the most out of the meeting.
#3. Take advantage of existing social groups.
When it comes to joining existing groups and committees, there are often many to choose from. I’d recommend finding something that caters to a passion or interest of yours, so that 1) it’s more fun!; and 2) you get to know others with similar interests.
Consider both more formal groups (like Toastmasters or charitable giving committees) and more social ones (like intramural sports teams).
Joining a group like this gives you exposure to others in the organization and lets you get to know them in a way that differs from the typical work environment.
#4. Personalize your desk.
This tip may seem strange and not be up everyone’s alley, but it’s worked for me! By having a personal piece (like a picture of your family), some type of festive décor, or anything else that expresses your personality (like a fun lamp!), you create a conversation piece. It gives people who stop by your desk yet another way of getting to know you.
This has the additional benefit of making your physical work environment happier. Because we spend so much time at work, I always like to make sure that my environment is one that’s really comfortable for me.
By the same token, if you’re chatting with someone and you see something at their desk and that is an interest to you or that you could ask about, use it a an opening to get to know them better.
#5. Be genuinely curious.
In other words, be a good listener. This means that when you’re asking people questions, ask questions that you really want to know the answer to and listen when you’re hearing that answer.
It’s very easy to focus more on just what we asked or on how we should respond to their answer. But you’re much better off to truly be engaged, listening actively, and truly digesting what they’re saying. This will help you come off as more authentic, which is one of the keys to a great friendship in the first place.
#6. Reach out about non-work related things.
This tip requires balancing being both friendly and professional.
Let’s say, for example, you’re eating lunch in the kitchen with some colleagues and one of them is eating a delicious homemade meal. You could ask them how they made it, or even request the recipe. This shows a genuine interest and makes things more personal. It’s also a more organic way to get to know someone.
#7. Start meetings with a personal touch.
If you’re in a smaller meeting, you don’t always have to launch straight into business. As people are starting to get settled, it’s nice to ask them how they’re doing, and what’s new at work.
I find this works particularly well when it comes to conversations that could be a bit contentious or where you foresee there being a lack of alignment. By starting the meeting with small talk, you may be able to diffuse some tension right away and make things more relaxed and easygoing. This can then set the stage for it to be more collaborative and cooperative.
#8. Bring food.
When I worked in corporate, I did this all the time! It started because I love baking but I don’t love having baked goods around all the time. So it was a win-win to get the baked goods out of my kitchen and also share them with people that I work with. Most of us hit that mid-afternoon slump, and a little sweet treat was the perfect pick-me-up!
Putting out food encourages people to stop by your desk, catch up, and make things a little bit less businesslike all the time.
If you’re not a big baker, don’t feel the need to become Betty Crocker just to make friends at work! Instead, you can pick up a big bag of chocolates from Costco and put them in a little bowl at your desk or something like that.
Have you tried any of these tips in making friends at work? What types of strategies have worked well for you in the past? Let me know in the comments below!
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