Adam Piggott

Gentleman adventurer

You don't go to work to make friends.

This is going to be a relatively short post as I don’t need that many words to get across my point. However, do not be misled by its brevity; I consider this to be a very useful and thus important topic for those who need to hear it. Squarely in my sights would be those of the Millennial generation, although Gen Y could do with a good dose of this reality as well.
Over the years I have had many workplace related conversations where colleagues would voice complaints about someone else in the workplace. Perhaps they rub them slightly the wrong way, but whatever the reason the motivation is the same – they don’t particularly like a certain colleague as an individual. The complaint has nothing to do with the skills or ability level of the other person, it is simply a personality clash.

My response is usually a variation of the following theme: you don’t go to work to make friends. If you do manage to make friends then that is what is known as a bonus play. But the reason you are at work is primarily because of an exchange. You provide your skills, expertise, and time while your employer pays you money. Anything that gets in the way of that exchange is unacceptable. You would find it unacceptable if your employer didn’t pay you the agreed amount at the agreed time. Consider then the reverse of the situation.
Related to this is the equally pertinent and annoying habit of people who delight in bringing their personal problems and issues to the workplace. Everyone has these issues, it is a part of life. But if we all brought them to the workplace then the entire edifice would fall apart. Thus those who do are engaged in an unfair imposition on everyone else.
Don’t get me wrong, I do my very best to remain lighthearted at work and to have a pleasant a time as possible. But foremost in my mind is the fact that we’re all there to get a job done and the sooner that we do it to the highest standard then the better. Because at the end of the day I just want to go home.
You don’t even know most of the people that you work with. You might think that you do, but you don’t. That’s because they’re just getting on with the job. As you should be doing.

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11 Comments

  1. Exactly! I have made some friends at work, but that’s not the goal. My wife didn’t get a job as an elementary school librarian once because a principal didn’t like it when my wife said something similar. Fortunately she found a great job with a more mature principal who was focused on results. Yes, get along with others, but no, you don’t have to be buddies. I’ve had a very successful career in accounting and finance without ever having to socialize outside of work. Just be great at your job.

  2. It probably comes of loneliness at home. If the workplace is the only place you get face-time with people then it’s not surprising people try to find friends there. Forty hours of our waking life per week is significant.
    My career field, civil engineering, is actually facing the opposite problem. So much of the work is being automated that social isolation has become a quiet killer.

  3. 7817

    Counterpoint: We spend lots of time at work, so any good friends you make there can have a larger positive effect on your life, particularly if the friendship extends to outside of work.

  4. But we’re a faaaaamily!

  5. No one invites me out on Thursday for pool and porkchops. I got over it quick. I learned along time ago that I wasn’t the type of person that coworkers rush to spend time with.

  6. TechieDude

    I learned about office gossip and drama the hard way, back in the 80s. I managed to make myself a pariah, more or less. The only thing that saved me was work ethic, talent, and skill. And, a ball busting boss. It took over a year until I made my bones, so to speak.
    I stayed for the next ten years, and the friends I made were a bonus, as you say.
    Gossip is the state sport here in Texas. You meet a bighair, and you’ll soon know everything about her, and everyone in the building. Having learnt not to play that game, I counselled the wife how things would be when she went back to office work. Knowing it, and experiencing it are two different things. So she had to learn, although not as tough a lesson as mine.
    I’ve passed those lessons to my kids. Never talk about something which you have no direct knowledge. And if you do, consider – is it relevant, and would this person be hurt about it, for no purpose. Unless it’s to help the person being talked about, keep your pie-hole shut.
    I also passed on what my old man told us; You can say you didn’t mean it. You can say your sorry. But you can’t say you didn’t say it. Once it’s out there, it’s too late.

  7. 7817

    Never talk about something which you have no direct knowledge.
    This is great advice.

  8. Dang right. I would say that a harbringer—a leading indicator if you will– of this “workplace family” nonsense is TV sitcoms.
    Now, there have always been “workplace sitcoms” on TV– i.e. sitcoms with an emphasis or a regular setting being someone’s workplace. It was how these places were portrayed that changed over time.
    In the 1950s, I Love Lucy was centered around Lucy the housewife, but she occasionally (and unsuccessfully) interfered with her husband’s workplace (his band/nightclub)—-but always the emphasis was on the home and the couple.
    In the early 1960s you had The Dick Van Dyke show, which placed about half of its time at Dick’s work. But the other half was with his family—-and it was clear that the workplace folks were second to his wife and children and his home.
    Then, in the 1970s, you get The Mary Tyler Moore show, where the wife from the Dick Van Dyke show is almost totally immersed in her workplace and her co-workers. Yet Mary is ultimately a sad creaturee—miserable, a broken engagement, alone—as is the whole workplace crew, and ultimately the whole makeshift family is kicked out the door singing Irish drinking tunes mournfully.
    Bythe 1980s you get one major sitcom—Cheers—totally devoted to bar flies, bartenders, and drunks at a bar in Boston, making themselves into a weird “family”as they have no one else. Then in the 1990s Friends eschewed family for “friends” and Seinfeld eschewed any car for any body.
    And so on. As time goes on family-centered sitcoms dropped out and makeshift family/workplace sitcoms were favored. Those family sitcoms that made it—Everyone Loves Raymond, King of Queens—were largely derided by “smart” folks.Meanwhile, the smart set lauds workplace sitcoms like 30 Rock or The Office, or makeshift family ones like Will & Grace.
    In short, as family has become more atomized and scattered in real life, people have sought it out in strange places. And when they don’t get it at work, and their homelife is them, alone, in a crap studio apartment—they get snippy.
    Socialization matters, even in the home.
    It used to be the town weirdo just needed to find a good woman to marry so he could be normalized—he needed to put his weirdness into someone who would appreciate it. So the town found him a wife and that was it. Nowadays, since no one lives in the same small town anymore and no one stays married for life, no one fixes the town weirdo up —and he becomes the snippy guy at work who demands closeness at work, even for the brief time he works their.

  9. Post Alley Crackpot

    People who do not fuck up my shit and disturb my calm?
    There’s a chance we can become friends.
    The others? Honestly, why should I give a fuck?

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