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Workplace Pals: The Benefits and Potential Pitfalls of Having Friends at Work

January 2009 (SmartPros) Do you join members of your accounting and finance team for outings after work? Do you meet up with a colleague to chat over cappuccinos every Friday morning?

In addition to being fun, these social activities can pay dividends on the job, according to an Accountemps survey. Sixty-three percent of employees polled said that productivity increases when coworkers are friends outside of the office; 57 percent of executives agreed. Following are some “friendly” tips to consider about building bonds with coworkers:

Choose your friends wisely. Cultivate connections with individuals who are respected and display both work ethic and interpersonal skills. These are the kinds of associates who can provide valuable career support by serving as sounding boards, motivational cheerleaders, honest critics and trusted confidantes.

Avoid guilt by association. For good or ill, remember that your friends will reflect upon on you. If you’re close with the company’s resident rumormonger, for example, your supervisor and others will likely assume that you’re also a gossip.

Set socializing limits. While it’s fine to engage in typical water cooler chitchats about your weekend or the latest episode of The Office, be careful about doing too much socializing. Long-winded discussions can distract others and interfere with your duties. Save in-depth interactions for your lunch break.

Don’t play favorites. Friendships should not affect the way you treat people while on the job. For instance, requests from your best pals shouldn’t be given higher priority than those from anyone else. While you might go the extra mile to assist a friend, avoid slighting others or responding less promptly to their needs.

Maintain your own identity. Friendships can be a rewarding aspect of work life, but don’t form such tight bonds with select people that you’re viewed as part of an exclusive clique. In today’s team-oriented work environment, it’s critical that you’re perceived as someone who can work well with everyone.

ACCOUNTEMPS is the world’s first and largest temporary staffing service specializing in the placement of accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. The company has more than 360 offices worldwide and offers online job search services at

2009 SmartPros Ltd. All rights reserved.

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