How To Ensure Your Workplace BFF Isn't Dragging You Down

We spend a lot of time at work. In fact, on average, over 13 years of our lives are spent working. Because it sucks up so much of our time, it's important to have someone we can rely on in the office. That's why workplace BFFs are a must for many trying to get through the workweek without totally burning out.

According to a 2022 survey by JobSage, 95% of respondents said that having a work friend made them happier, 92% reported not leaving their job because of their work friend, and 76% gave their work friend credit for making them more creative. Although remote working has dampened in-office friendships, with those who work remotely full-time reporting 33% fewer friends, the fact remains that these bonds still exist and many of us are better for it.

But while there are many pros to having a workplace BFF, it's not always without its cons. When you become close to someone and tell them a lot of details about your life, sometimes it can backfire, especially if your workplace is a competitive one. There's also the risk of you and your work BFF alienating others, which can make other coworkers resentful and or even label you as gossips. In other words, what might seem like a harmless friendship, can spiral due very much in part to the work environment and your fellow employees. To get ahead of this, it's essential you do what it takes to make sure your workplace BFF isn't dragging you down — especially if you value your job and want to stay there for the long run.

Be wary of how much you share with them

When you have a work BFF, it can sometimes be difficult to navigate what's okay to share and what you need to keep to yourself. For example, if you hate your boss and despise the business, revealing these emotions to someone else in the company can be a precarious decision. Even if your BFF is ranting and raving about how much they loathe the company too, it's best to not get on that bandwagon, because you never know if it might be used against you.

According to a survey reported by Harvard Business Review, the majority of employees spend at least 10 hours a month complaining about their job or listening to others voice their complaints. The same survey found that one-third of employees spend at least 20 hours a month complaining. So while complaining about your job and all its variables, from your boss to coworkers to projects you've been assigned, is very normal, it's not always a good idea. The workplace can be cut-throat in a lot of ways, so you never know if what you say is going to land you in trouble.

You should also observe this when it comes to parts of your personal life. If you've done (or do things) that you know management won't be thrilled about, then there's no need to share it with your work BFF. We've seen people lose their jobs for having OnlyFan accounts, people fired for absurd religious reasons, and for their behavior on social media. So, yes, your private life can get you in hot water at work so it can be best to keep it that way — private.

Keep the gossip for after work

As much as the word gossip and the action of gossiping gets a lot of flak, it's actually in our blood to gossip. In Medieval times, when a woman was on the verge of giving birth, her female friends would gather around and indulge in "godsibbs" as a way to distract and support her through her labor pains. It was a beneficial reprieve for the pregnant woman. As time evolved, gossip became a part of women's social gatherings, ultimately creating bonds between them. Anthropologist Robin Dunbar explains this type of behavior is another version of social grooming that our primate cousins practice. While they're picking bugs out of each other's fur, humans are gossiping. It was when the patriarchy decided that gossiping was a frivolous, useless thing that only women did that it became a bad thing and something that women were condemned for or even punished. 

While gossiping may be in our DNA, work isn't the environment for it. You are, after all, on company time — something that, even if you loathe your job, should always be kept in mind. If a juicy piece of information about someone, especially a coworker, comes your way, immediately shut it down. Although not all gossip is steeped in malicious rumors, you never know what's real and what's been exaggerated. Ending up in the HR office for indulging in gossip is on par with being sent to the principal's office in school. However, the big differences are the real-world consequences like getting fired. So, make a pact with your work BFF that gossip will be saved for happy hour.

Understand the work friends dynamic

The thing about work BFFs is that we probably would have never met them if it wasn't for the fact that we were thrown together in an office environment. In some cases, these are even people that we wouldn't be friends with in general. But because you're both in the same office for 40+ hours a week, it's only natural that you'd become close to one of your coworkers. However, you need to be able to read the room, so to speak.

For starters, as much as you and your work BFF have fun together, you need to remember that you're still at work. What this means is that if you're in a position to bestow special treatment or give them a leg up in any way, don't do it. Not only is it unfair, but your other coworkers will notice, hold grudges, and you may never escape what you did. If an opportunity for both you and your BFF comes up and they're the one who gets that higher level position or promotion, remove any jealousy from the situation and be happy for them. You may have a close relationship, but at the end of the day, you're still coworkers. And, you can't forget about that when it comes to office politics and how the dynamic of your friendship is affected by the work environment that you're both in. 

Prioritize your work

It can be so hard to focus when you have a close buddy in the workplace. Between sending each other hysterical memes all day, constantly hanging around each other's desks, and silently communicating with facial expressions during meetings, it's definitely a recipe for fun. But it can also be a recipe for disaster.

"The fact that you have friends at work means you are spending more time on non-task related activities," chair of the management department at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania Nancy Rothbard tells CNN. "That is good from an energy-boost perspective, taking breaks and revitalizing. But if you don't manage it well, it can be distracting."

While the occasional distractions can sometimes be a good thing, especially if you're both stressed and need a giggle session, you have to remember where you are: the office. You were hired to do a job, be professional, and therefore know when it's time to put the fun away and get down to business. If you can't do that and prioritize your work, then you better believe management is going to take note. You want to be valued at work and regarded as a productive asset, not someone who's seen as distracted and disposable. 

Set clear boundaries and stick to them

If you're fortunate enough to love your job, then you need to set boundaries. A good way to do this is to be honest with your work BFF about how important your career is to you and what's okay for in-office behavior and what isn't. If your work BFF really cares about you, they'll respect your decision. Of course, once you say this, you need to be consistent and not waver from it whenever you feel like it. You should also consider limiting your time together — you're work BFFs, after all, not friends who have a decades-long history.

"Avoid overlapping too much of your personal/professional time," life coach and author Michelle Gomez tells Bustle. "Occasional lunches together, and maybe a Friday night happy hour visit here and there, are [okay], as well as big events like weddings. But do not overdo it with too many out-of-office functions, as it will skew the working relationship."

When you find someone you connect with, it can really be enticing to spend lots of time together. But considering the major link that holds your friendship in place is work, it's paramount that you have boundaries — not just for your benefit but theirs too. Having an office BFF is great. It can relieve stress, and as research has found, it ultimately makes people happier. But if you value your job and your position, you need to be wary of just how close you two get and the potential negative impact it can have. This doesn't mean you shouldn't have work BFFs. It just means that you need to navigate this friendship differently than you would others.