Having meaningful relationships in the workplace is more important than ever before and often has a direct link to job satisfaction.
Besides, if you don’t already have a work bestie to support you when your boss jumps down your throat or when your work nemesis grates on your very last nerve, then why bother going to work at all?
Having a work friend can help relieve tension and make your entire day enjoyable. But if you’re not naturally gifted at making friends (we get it, it can be hard), then you’ll need a few pointers to push you along the way.
So, whether it’s your first day on the job or you’ve been there for a while, here’s how to make friends at work (and avoid sinking into a friendless rut).
1. Engage in Small Talk
Small talk can be awkward at the best of times, especially once you start a new job and you’re thrown into a cubicle next to someone you don’t know (but need to get to know) and can’t really escape. However, it’s an essential part of forming strong alliances in the office.
If it’s your first day, you should stick to work-related questions like ‘how long have you worked here?’ and ‘what made you follow this career path?’. If, on the other hand, you’ve been there for a while, you can connect by discussing personal interests like travel or music.
2. Introduce Yourself to Colleagues You Meet in Communal Areas
More often than not, we can go years without meeting the people sitting 50 feet away from the office – unless, of course, we happen to bump into them in a communal area. And although it can be awkward to strike up a conversation with a complete stranger, it’s the only way of making friends within the office.
If you happen to bump into colleagues that are outside of your immediate team in the kitchen or the hallway, for example, don’t be afraid to introduce yourself. To make the conversation as natural as possible, you can ask them about their job role. You can then discuss further topics the next time you bump into them, and before you know it, you’ll be talking about your weekend plans and your yearly getaway.
3. Eat Lunch in the Office Break Room
Although it’s very tempting to eat lunch at your desk and avoid all interaction with the outside world, it’s much more beneficial to take a break and eat in the lunchroom. This not only gives you a chance to refocus and rest your brain, but it also gives you the opportunity to get to know your colleagues on a more personal level.
Lunchroom chat usually involves any topic (other than work) and is the perfect opportunity to bond with the people that you work with. Over time, lunchbreak friendships usually blossom into trusting relationships.
4. Suggest Going out for Lunch or Coffee During Your Break
If you’ve hit it off with a colleague in the breakroom, why not ask if they would like to grab some lunch or coffee outside of the office? Remember: your lunch hour is a great opportunity for forming relationships in the workplace. They are short enough so you don’t run out of things to say, but long enough to get to know people personally.
If they seem keen, then you’ve made yourself a work friend. If not, there’s no harm done! At least you tried to make a connection with someone at work!
5. Participate in Team Activities
Most organisations with a good company culture arrange at-work activities and out-of-work gatherings. These provide you with the perfect opportunity to meet people that you don’t directly work with every day and get to know them beyond the office walls.
If it’s during working hours, then these activities are mostly compulsory. On the other hand, out-of-work gatherings aren’t obligatory, but they are so important if you want to make work friends. Although it’s not essential to go to every meeting, it’s ideal to show your face every now and again.
6. Start an Interest Group
Some companies don’t place too much attention on group activities. So, if you happen to work at a company that doesn’t already have pre-established groups, why not create one yourself?
You can align your interests with others in the company and enjoy them together. For example, if you play five-a-side football, why not get members from your company involved and build a work team? Or, if you’re a bookworm, why not form a book club so you can discuss the latest hot novel with likeminded people?
7. Treat Your Coworkers to Baked Goods
A great way to anyone’s heart is through good food. So, if you have a special recipe up your sleeve, why not share it with the rest of your colleagues? They will appreciate the effort that went into your baking, and they will also thank you for your tasty treats!
Bringing in treats can also spark conversation with other bakers – they may ask for your recipe and will be more inclined to discuss their specialities with you, too.
8. Use Open Body Language
If your body language is giving off the wrong impression in the workplace, you might be hindering your office relationships. If you sit with your arms crossed and your headphones in your ears and you keep your head down, you’re essentially telling everyone that you should not be disturbed.
However, the more open you appear, the likelier it is for people to approach you and initiate conversation. And when you’re more approachable, managers will notice you more and, as a result, you’ll be able to advance faster than your closed off colleagues.
9. Be Friendly and Authentic
When trying to make friends in the office, it’s important not to be too pushy or inauthentic. If you say something for the sake of it – like how a singer is going on tour because you know your colleague is a fan – it will come across as fake, and they will see right through you.
Instead, it’s important to always stay true to yourself while remaining polite and friendly. And if you happen to disagree with something and you are asked for your opinion – say it! Don’t be shy to show your true personality, as people will like you for who you are.
10. Find Areas of Common Struggle
One topic that workers are bound to bond over is a common struggle in the workplace. If you’re working collaboratively on a project and your coworker and yourself both face the same issues, you’re more likely to support each other and discuss possible solutions together.
When you’re both on the same side, it’s easier to connect with others and get the job done faster, which naturally forms a strong alliance between the both of you.
11. Consider Adding Them on Social Media
Social media can be a tricky topic for some workers – some are quite open and want to connect with their colleagues online, while others prefer to keep their two worlds apart. When it comes to social media, it’s best to use your own judgement, and if someone doesn’t accept, don’t feel disheartened.
If you do connect on social media, then great! You can connect beyond working hours and discover more about each other’s interests, and who knows? You could be tagging your new work best friend in memes in no time!
12. Bond with Coworkers in a Similar Situation to You
It’s easier to make friendships with people that are in a similar situation to you, and usually, there will be someone in your workplace that started at a similar time (if not the same time).
If you’re both newbies, you’ll both be keen to form a friendship with them and may find that you share common interests. I’ve made some true friendships by starting a position at the same time as some of my ex-colleagues, so there’s hope that you can, too!
13. Avoid Office Gossip
While most people connect over a mutual like or dislike of someone, or something in the workplace, they soon tend to fizzle out once one of them moves department or company altogether, proving that the friendship was purely based on gossip.
If you want to build trustworthy alliances, it’s best to avoid office gossip at all costs. And if you happen to be dragged into any office gossip, simply listen but don’t react – it can easily backfire if you decide to join in on the negativity!
14. Invite Them to Out-of-Office Activities
If you’ve made a good connection with someone at work, invite them to hang out outside the office. Most often, people let loose and are more natural when they’re not in a working environment. You could also open the invite up to your entire team and suggest happy hour on a Friday evening, encouraging the entire team to bond beyond work tasks.
15. Don’t Force It!
If you’ve tried all the tips above and failed to connect with a single person in the workplace, you might be tempted to force it, but you really shouldn’t! It may be that you have completely different interests, which is entirely okay! If you’re able to see past this issue and enjoy your work, then you can remain cordial with your colleagues.
However, if work friendships are really important to you, it might be a good idea to start looking for another job at a company whose culture is more fitting to your personality.
Work friendships can make a bad job good and a good job great! Besides, for some, making friends at work is harder than doing the job itself. To make sure that your workplace is exciting and enjoyable, focus on bonding over work experiences, which can then transform into loyal friendships.
Have you ever struggled with making friends in the workplace? Let us know how you overcame friendlessness and made great connections in the discussion below.