How to find your work BFF
Self-confessed ‘people geek’ and Organisational Psychologist Sucheta Gorolay gives us the lowdown on why making friends at work should be a critical priority in your career, and how to pursue this with minimal awkward convos.
Friendships in the workplace are critical. The transition from uni to work can be a shock to the system (I mean, concentrating and being productive for 8 hours straight and having to turn up to work 5 days a week… say what!?).
I remember one of the executives I worked with once said there are two important types of relationships that helped them become CEO. The first are mentors or coaches - these are the people that help you stretch and grow professionally - and the second are your whine/wine club (the people who you can rely on not only to celebrate the wins, but also be there for the hard times at work).
So how do you go about forming these friendships, you ask?
- Know yourself
Know what makes you you; know what you stand for and value; know what you want to be known for and stay conscious of all the ways this may change. I think when you know who you are and what you have to offer, people will be able to build stronger connections with you and you’ll also minimise the risk of losing yourself to fit in.
- Find common ground
This starts with being relentlessly curious about everyone you meet. Obviously don’t do it to the point that they think you’re stalkerish and scary (#weirdo) – but be genuinely interested to learn about what makes other people tick. What do they like, what don’t they like, what do they do for fun, what are their pet peeves, what sort of work/education/life background have they come from etc.
- Be authentic
This sounds like a no-brainer but it’s easy to forget. I think we’ve all had instances at a party or in class where we felt like someone suddenly changed to be what they thought was ‘cool’ or what they needed to be. Invariably we all have decent bullsh*t radars and this will impact your ability to develop strong friendships and relationships in the workplace.
My biggest learning to date is that if I don’t fit in somewhere, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s because of me –sometimes it is other people, or the environment, that doesn’t work for me. Knowing the difference between needing to change who you are and needing to change who you surround yourself with or the environment you’re in - that is something I wish I knew earlier.
- Be realistic
Most importantly, know that not everyone at work will like you and that this is okay. At all times remain professional, courteous and polite. Find ways to find common ground enough at least to get your work done, but don’t feel you need to engage and be friends with people you’re not gelling with. The key here is knowing and ensuring that the people at work are simply one part of your life – not all of your life.
Sucheta is a Manager and Organisational Psychologist, working across strategy, leadership and organisational development at Bendelta. Underpinning everything Sucheta does is an intense passion and curiosity to understand why people behave the way they do and empowering others, be it individuals, teams or organisations, to unpack this for themselves and achieve their own definition of success. Sucheta holds a Masters in Psychology (Organisational) from the UNSW Sydney.
Connect with Sucheta on LinkedIn.