Relationships in the workplace, whether they be of a romantic or purely platonic nature, can be tricky to navigate. Certainly we all want to be comfortable in our work environments and forming friendships at work is basic human nature. But what if friendships turn toxic or even worse, a co-worker should overstep proper business boundaries? How do we limit workplace relationships? Here are some points to consider.
- Remain professional at all times. The number one way to avoid problems with other people at work is maintain a professional decorum every day. This does not mean that you hold yourself aloof from your co-workers, but rather that you make it clear by your behavior that you are first and foremost a professional, and that you take your job very seriously. Be friendly, but not overly personal with your co-workers. Show people that you are there to accomplish your job.
- Set an example. People who get in trouble at work are generally those who engage in workplace gossip and complain endlessly with co-workers. You have established yourself as a professional, now you need to set an example of professional behavior. Avoid getting involved in petty discussions and if you find yourself in the situation, try to steer the conversation into a more positive direction. You can be friendly with people and even engage in friendly conversations, but try not to get entrenched in other people's problems. This can suck up valuable work time and keep you from accomplishing your goals.
- Guard your privacy. Over time, you will become close to certain people with whom you work. There's no avoiding that. From time to time, you will be invited to lunch, company functions and even a night out after work. Socializing with co-workers is a great way to foster teamwork and an important part of business life. But while you socialize, you also need to remember to keep a balance between your private and your work life.
- Be careful whom you trust. Certainly there will be people in whom you feel comfortable confiding your problems, but be careful whom you trust. The most unwitting comment could be used against you at some point in time. There are almost always people at work who are looking for ways to get ahead, and by exposing a weakness, you might be giving them an edge.
- Set clear boundaries. If an office relationship appears to be turning a bit more personal than you would like, it is important that you make your boundaries clear. This is not easy, and must be done with tact and care. Be sure that what you perceive is, in fact, correct. If a co-worker clearly comes on to you, make sure they know in no uncertain terms that this is not acceptable to you. If this behavior continues, you may be forced to take more serious action. Never allow an unwanted flirtation to continue unchecked. You could be setting yourself up for much more serious problems.