It wasn’t long ago that socializing with co-workers was limited to water cooler talk, quick coffee breaks, the occasional dinner out, or the eagerly anticipated annual company picnic or holiday party. These days, there really doesn’t seem to be the same clear distinction between work and social lives that once was prevalent in the average workplace. Today, we’re more prone to co-mingle the two, and our offices are often not just a second home to us, but our colleagues, often like friends and family.
What has caused this shift in perspective? Could it be the Millennial and Generation X influence in the workplace? Could it be the mass adoption of new technologies that keep us connected to work and life 24/7 constantly and fluidly? Perhaps it’s because company benefits are creating more group perks – like in office gyms, stocked refrigerators and kitchens, group sporting events, and more? Maybe it’s just a natural result of the macro transition from an industrial to a service economy. My guess is that it’s a bit of all of these things. Also, a more entrepreneurial spirit that has become prevalent in businesses of all sizes. Whatever the answer, our world and our work keeps evolving, and one of the greatest perks is hopefully a new sense of unity and community at your place of business. I know it is at ours. (Check out our blog post on Loving Who Your Work With. It Makes A Difference).
We asked a bunch of our friends and colleagues online and around the office about the pros and cons of socializing with co-workers to get a sense of how people’s thoughts on the subject have changed, and here’s what they said. (BTW, you can still share your perspective in the comments section below! And make sure to follow us at @ysn_careersos on Twitter so you can contribute your POV to our new article!)
Pro – Developing and maintaining strong social relationships with your co-workers is an effective way to build more cohesive and productive teams.
Con – You may not want your co-workers knowing everything about your personal life. While they may be your friends, they may also become your bosses or your references at promotion time.
Pro – If your friends with everyone you will get thought of for the best projects, opportunities, raises etc.
Con – “Secrets” could get out. Your not planning on staying at the company, past jobs gone bad etc. Too much info can be bad.
Pro – It builds office unity.
Con – If it results in a more than friends situation or conflict over religion/politics.
Pro – Socializing with co-workers fosters creativity. We achieve more in collaboration.
Pro – Socializing w/ co-workers is positive thing, because it builds stronger relationships outside the workplace that can be carried over.
Pro – You get to work with your friends everyday!
Con – Sometimes you are around them too much because you work with them and go out with them.
Con – Future mgmt/leadership roles become awkward after years of socializing with current peers.
Pro – If you have great colleagues (as I do), socializing enables you to bond and enjoy your time at work.
Con – When you’re friends with your colleagues it’s easy to get distracted or side-tracked in conversation while trying to focus.
Pro – Our friendships are one of the driving factors of enjoying work.
Con – Unfortunately, the lines can become blurred between friends and colleagues.
Pro – It builds camaraderie and teamwork and employees look forward to coming to work since they’re working w/ people they like.
Con – If a peer gets promoted it can be hard to manage your former peers.
From a manager’s perspective the pros are of course building a rapport with your employees. If they like you, they’re likely to work hard for you. But it’s a slippery slope. The boundaries become unclear and if there is a person in the position of authority, that person has to be able to exercise the authority and get support from their team in professional settings.
From an employee’s perspective – the pros are getting in good with your boss. When you feel comfortable enough to socialize with your boss, you will likely enjoy work more (assuming you LIKE your boss). But this too can lead to blurred authority lines and boundaries. As an employee are you mature enough to put aside how you feel personally when your boss (who sometimes feels like your friend, maybe someone you’ve confided in) comes down hard on you about your work? Will the quality of your work be effected because, maybe, you’re upset at them?
Pro – Socializing with co-workers can develop unity and help build a richer relationship with each other, which in turn will strengthen the team’s morale. When everyone in the team is united and feeling good about what they are doing, success will follow.
Con – I don’t really see any Cons in socializing with co-workers since I’m still good friends with many old co-workers after I quit. But I can imagine disliking a co-worker MORE after getting to know him/her better. Some people also have different personalities at their workplace versus their real life, and these different personalities might not be as compatible and comfortable as the one you see at work.
Pro – Socializing outside of work can help to build stronger and more complete relationships with the people whom you spend all day working with. This is a good thing because it’s likely that you see your co-workers more than you see most other people.
Con – But on the other hand, sometimes in the workplace you need to take a stand and make hard decisions and hand out tough criticisms. If you feel like your co-workers are close friends, then you may not want to point out when they do something wrong or require them to do something unpleasant but necessary. This can hurt the company if nobody puts their foot down. Conversely, if you are friends with co-workers and you _do_ make work-appropriate comments about their work, for example, your friend-co-worker is likely to interpret your comments personally since you are “friends” and they expect you to be “nicer”.