Work friend, real friend
May 8, 2015 9:05 AM   Subscribe

Now that a new-ish friend has moved to my department at work, I'm less interested in hanging out with her outside of work. Seeing her socially makes me feel like I'm still in work-mode, but I love her as a friend. Tips for handling this like a nice, reasonable, caring human?

When I was a new employee about 6 months ago, Allie was working at a different location, same company. She visited my office because she was filling in or helping out-- Anyway, through a couple of brief encounters we hit it off. I called her after not seeing her for a while, letting the holidays pass and stuff, and since then we've hung out something like every other, or every third weekend. We're not besties, but we probably could be-- except, when I'm not at work, I don't even really like to think about work. Other people might hang with coworkers socially, but that's not really my thing; seeing coworkers on my time feels like a sacrifice. (Did I mention I'm a bit of an introvert? & my job doesn't define me, etc., etc.)

Now that Allie is in my department and I see her a few days a week, how do I tell her I'm less interested in increasing our hangouts? Seeing her occasionally outside of work is OK, but it seemed like our friendship was just ramping up when she became my office mate (at least part time).

This is a platonic friendship, we're both ladies. If I don't say anything to her, but fail to make plans, I think it will be hurtful. It's not that we gab about work constantly, but we now very much have it in common, and ... I'm struggling with this.

I fantasize about the day I'll move on to another job, and can finally be good friends with her. She's a "lifer" with our company. I don't see her moving on anytime soon.

Friendship would not/does not interfere with our work performance.
posted by little_dog_laughing to Human Relations (10 answers total)
Have you tried telling her, "Allie, I love hanging out with you, but I hate talking about work outside the office. How about if we ramp back the work talk?"?
posted by Etrigan at 9:08 AM on May 8, 2015 [7 favorites]

I carpool with a co-worker who is also a long time family friend. We instituted a no-work-talk outside work rule and it's made a huge difference.

If you try that and it's not enough. If you can't even see her outside work, then I'd have that conversion. But I'd try the no-work-talk compromise first.
posted by French Fry at 9:15 AM on May 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

Was going to suggest what Etrigan did. Just something like, "Oh, I prefer to keep work talk to office hours" and then just redirect the discussion to something you both would like to talk about.
posted by holborne at 9:16 AM on May 8, 2015

Best answer: Do you actually talk a lot about work when you hang out or does just seeing her put you in a work frame of mind? If it's that the conversation turns to work, then the above suggestions should do the trick. If it's just that she=workplace in your mind, that's a great deal trickier. You're also anticipating that she'll notice & be hurt that there isn't an uptick in your socializing. She very well may not, especially with the summer. People are busy with all sorts of things. I think I'd just continue on as you were before, scale back even, if you want, but I wouldn't make a thing out of it unless she brings it up. Friendships ebb & flow. We also are more likely to make plans with people we don't get a chance to see enough. Now that you see each other more often, it's not really necessary & frees you up to see other people & do other things you didn't have time for before. I think I'd just let the dynamic evolve & see where it leads. If you need to have a conversation, of course, talk to her, but, at this point, I think I'd be incredibly confused & hurt, if I were her.
posted by katemcd at 10:22 AM on May 8, 2015

Make a deal between you, get it on paper. The idea being, the corp doesn't get to live in your heads on your dime, does't get to take coffee, or dine with you either.

I had a good friend, work friend, I walked with. Her husband made a deal with relatives and he lost a bundle of money. She couldn't let it go out on walks. Being a friend I wanted her to be able to decompress, but beyond a point I had to get her to turn it off, or else I would take meditative exercise alone. So we made a ritual, and had a funeral for the money, and made a couple of rituals too for things I was willing to give up as well. We walked for years after that.

Make the deal, friendship is worth it.
posted by Oyéah at 10:53 AM on May 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Finding a new lifetime friend as an adult is a priceless gift! It's worth the effort to keep this connection. No-work-talk rules can be hard to enforce, but if that's what it takes, be ruthless. And maybe take some time to reconsider the idea that hanging out with new friends you happened to meet at work = a sacrifice.
posted by jesourie at 11:26 AM on May 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

If you enjoy her company, could you hang out with her more at work, eg. go to lunch regularly, and talk about whatever you want? If that becomes your regular pattern, she might not even notice not doing things together on the weekends.
posted by rpfields at 11:47 AM on May 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You're projecting. She hasn't said anything to you about this, so don't worry about it - for all you know, she might be thinking the same thing. You said things were just ramping up, hanging out every other/third weekend - that's good because you didn't get to bestie territory yet. If you had been besties and then this happened with her coming to your office, then she would totally notice that you're not wanting to hang out as much outside of work. But if you were besties, she would know you are an introvert. ;-)

I don't think you need to address this with her, I'm a believer in letting things run their natural course - she might have realized the same thing about working with you and your friendship will naturally adjust. What you can do is have a plan ready to keep the boundaries that currently exist during this time that you are working together. One thing I would suggest is that when/if you do things outside of the office, make sure they are activities that will keep you talking and engaged about the task at hand and not talking about things at work. Going to a flea market or a craft fair or painting pottery would provide less opportunities to talk about work than going to dinner or lunch. Movies might be good because you really don't talk too much - just before and after - and after is usually about the movie. If work does come up, then deal with it when it does: "Oh Allie, I'm having so much fun with you, I just don't want to think about work today," and change the subject. It's timely, appropriate, and the truth. And really, if this is someone who you want to be your friend for life, then they will learn about the introvert in you and understand. That's what friends do.
posted by NoraCharles at 1:08 PM on May 8, 2015

Response by poster: I'm a little heartbroken that Allie has to fall on the side of work, if my mind insists on a chasm between work life and private life. I just feel really uncomfortable with the two mixing. There's apparently no magic solution, so I shall let things unfold as they will and allow myself to be a bit vulnerable. Thanks, all.
posted by little_dog_laughing at 9:18 PM on May 8, 2015

Response by poster: One month follow up: Yeah, I do kind of equate her face with work. I know you all have been dying to hear the resolution to this story (/sarcasm) &, well, I attempted to get to know her outside of work a little better, but it's difficult to feel like I'm in weekend-mode while I hang out with a colleague. The best advice above I took to mean: respect my boundaries and let life happen. Don't turn regular interactions into Things.
posted by little_dog_laughing at 9:09 PM on June 7, 2015

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