Are Work Friends Counterproductive?

A few years ago when I began working at a startup company, I made friends with several of my colleagues in the marketing and creative departments. We’d grab lunch together and occasionally meet up on the weekends or after work. I’d never been super-close with any of my coworkers before, so it was exciting to form such friendly bonds!

Having work buddies can make the workday pass more quickly and take the sting out of working late, but it can sometimes be a distraction. Plus, hanging out with coworkers after hours blurs the lines between your personal and professional life. In the case of my work posse, we got chastised a few times for taking longer lunches than we should (we were having so much fun chatting we lost track of time!).

Some career experts warn that being too chummy with friends at work also makes it less likely that you’ll be tapped for a promotion, because you may be seen as someone who’s serious about advancing their career (or you may subconsciously avoid any changes that would split up you and your work clique). Now that I’m working from home, I actually have the opposite of this problem: too few opportunities to interact with colleagues.

What’s your take on work friendships? Are work friends bad for your career?

Popular search terms for this article:

work friends

Susan Johnston is a freelance writer/blogger who has contributed to publications including The Boston Globe,’s blog,, and Yahoo! HotJobs. Her own blog,, covers tips on productivity, brainstorming, and more for fellow writers.


  1. Pablo Rodrigo on the 9th July

    I think it rarely depends on friendship alone. There are a number of factors that make a friendship career-wise productive or counter productive. In my case I’ve got one real, work-friend.

    – We’ve watched each others backs on difficult work enviroments.
    – It’s always been useful to have a trusted person to share your views on the company.
    – He’s way better than me at networking and I’ve been offered better paying jobs thanks to his help.
    – He tells me the truth wether I like it or not about my work.

    Of course work friendships have their downsides, but overall it has been a really great experience for me.

  2. Mark Campbell on the 9th July

    My outlook is that a work relationship should have some foundation and understanding in order to keep the workplace productive. I have always look to have some kind of personal connection with co-workers but I use that personal connection to better my understanding of what they do and how we could help accelerate each other careers. Use the offline conversation and weekend events as opportunity to get to know them but also spend offline time advancing in each of our roles. If time spent with co-workers offline never has a connection with the job or task then long term the work relationship will become counterproductive.

  3. Zac on the 9th July

    Work friends are very counter-productive. I have a hard time getting things done some days, and I’m beginning to ignore people to focus on my to-do list. Tip number 1 for this situation, close your office door.

  4. Braden Keith on the 9th July

    One step further – dating/being married to a coworker. That can definitely be distracting. A healthy office relationship is one who understand your coworkers, interact when necessary, but save the chit chat for after hours – or even “privately” through office IM (skype in my case). This leaves everyones perception of you as coworkers. It’s a dangerous game outside the office too – it’s easy to bond over knowing the same people at work that it can quickly become the only topic of conversation – like you said, blurring the lines of personal and business. Best advice: keep personal out of work.

  5. Sam Dalton on the 9th July

    If I’m in a job where interacting with people and making friends means I’m being de-valued by management, I would leave that company in a second.

    Focus is one thing, we all need quiet time and a distraction free place to get work done, but not at the expense of making friends.

  6. I am in the same situation as you. I work from home too, and I do miss the presence of colleagues.


  7. Cesare on the 10th July

    I miss colleagues’ presence, but just sometimes. I think it is important to do something social during lunch and/or in the evening.

  8. Elizabeth on the 13th July

    Getting a little social interaction is so important to me. It helps me get through the day for sure. The problem I’m running into is burnt-out co-workers. Our conversations spiral into venting sessions that make me very uncomfortable. I know my company isn’t perfect, but I value my job and don’t want to get caught up in someone else’s crusade against the status-quo.

Add a Comment