Don't get your honey where your money is.
December 16, 2007 12:49 PM   Subscribe

How do I maintain positive relations with a group of work friends recently turned neighbors?

A month ago, I was in a living situation emergency where I needed to make an immediate exit. As luck would have it, Co-Worker X offered a very attractive option. There was a vacancy at his apartment complex several blocks from our work place. I seized upon the opportunity and happily moved in.. several doors down from him.

I had not seen much of Co-Worker X (due to busy schedules) until this week. I knew he frequented neighbor bars and spent time with several co-workers but I had no idea the extent (or the um.. intensity) of his personal life. He parties all the time, loudly and with a large collection of fellow co-workers. My move-in to the same complex as Co-Worker X was public knowledge around the company. Co-Worker X and others invited me to join in a night of festivities. The night turned into debauchery, illegal activities, and blacking out intoxication. Several neighbors on the same floor as us complained about the noise and hallway traffic. I retired early from that night, needless to say. I have not joined them since.

Here's the problem: I am afraid that my location to such hard partying will tarnish my reputation at work. Co-Worker X and crew continue to invite me out (at work or via phone), drunkenly knock on my door to say hello at all hours of the night/day, and tell stories of their previous adventures, associating my name with their antics due to my proximity and/or their brief neighbor greetings. They ask if I could do beer runs (I own a vehicle; they do not), spare a bottle, or have any cigarettes. I did not know this prior, but the people who Co-Worker X (though not him) associates with have poor reputations and are stagnant within the company ladder. I’ve mostly ignored or politely declined their invites.

I am young. I have been known to go out to a bar and have a few drinks. I have been known to consume alcohol in the company of my direct bosses, Manager A and Manager B. I am in the good graces of my direct bosses. In fact, we have a very close friendship that extends beyond work. Our friendship has not hindered my work performance. It may have even helped. They know my current grief and stress over this party explosion. The company is young. It is also known to be a rumor mill. I’m afraid that the directors/executives outside of my department (or even within) will hear false information about me.

I want to keep good relations with Co-Worker X and team because we work together in the same department. I do not harbor any ill will towards them. During the daylight and in sober conditions, they are nice people. However, I do not want to be “thrown under the bus” by them.

How do I discourage or disassociate my personal life with them in a subtle, friendly way? How do I maintain positive relations with Co-Worker X and team while severing non-work related contact? How do I stop my name from being affiliated with their debauchery? What can I do to save myself?

(As a side note, this is not my chosen career field. I am a student attending graduate school. It is a fun job I have to pay the bills and save for the future. I've been promoted several times already but have absolutely no illusions of staying with the company and/or field.)
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (9 answers total)
Are you stuck living there? If you're not staying long term, why do you care?
I'm surprised that they keep on inviting you.
posted by k8t at 12:55 PM on December 16, 2007

Appreciate them for their good qualities, and comment accordingly "X and his pals always invite me to join them" but declare your sadness at being unable to participate "but I always have to study/work/wash dishes. They're a fun bunch." Keep on in that vein "You always sound like you're having fun. I wish I fad time to join you."

If you start doing beer runs and supplying cigarettes, beer, etc., you'll be on the hook indefinitely. Politely and cheerfully decline. Visit for an occasional beer during sane hours. During not-so-sane hours, be mildly grumpy due to sleeping/studying/etc. Maintain a cheerful amused approach to those crazy partying kids. Other will get the message, and hopefully they'll stop knocking on the door constantly.
posted by theora55 at 1:03 PM on December 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

You have two issues here:

(1) Your neighbors are annoying drunks and won't leave you alone.
(2) You are afraid that not only will people at work associate you with co-workers whose ethics you don't believe in, but that they will judge you as them and this will have an effect on your career.

The answer to issue one is to move. I had a co-worker move down the street from me once and wanted to hang out all the time. I stopped answering his calls and gave him a completely cold shoulder and he understood rather quickly that the line was a barbeque in the summer once in awhile rather than best friend next door. It has worked out well. I feel for you and the apartment complex and young age may contribute to the dorm room atmosphere. Just get out of there as soon as possible and that is taken care of. It really should be your top priority.

For the second problem, you need to stop worrying so much. Unless they are saying things like, "Anonymous totally flat-faced Wednesday night, he was partying as hard as us," in front of a boss, you know something that is an outright lie, management is not going to care or know about a bunch of post-college kids talking about their party antics. Trust me when I say that your actions at the offices every day speak volumes more about your character than a few remarks. This isn't high school where loud-mouthed kids can get you in trouble for drinking on the weekend.

In short, no one care or should care about your personal life. Don't alienate a group of your co-workers by talking bad about them or trying to "disassociate" yourself from them. That doesn't mean you have to go along with them when they are being assholes, but you don't have to create needless bad blood. Today's co-worker is a tomorrow's VP.

NB At the end you say you don't care about staying in the company or the field? I would be more concerned about letting that show at work, especially given the series of promotions, than wanting to be seen as hanging around the party kids.
posted by geoff. at 1:10 PM on December 16, 2007

Invent a fitness regimen or other lie to beg off of their invites and cut out some structure that you expect them to pay attention to. They may not knock at all hours if they know you wake up at 5am.
posted by rhizome at 1:43 PM on December 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

The reason why Co-Worker X's friends are stagnating probably has more to do with their black-out level partying and its consequences than their reputations. Maintain friendly relationships with your co-workers, but don't get suckered into running their errands. Cheerful but unavailable should work. Unless you think this group of co-workers are involved with something really bad (like stealing money from work) or your company has serious expectations about the moral character of its employees I don't think you have anything to worry about.
posted by fermezporte at 2:15 PM on December 16, 2007

You're doing it already. You're fine. Really.
posted by desuetude at 2:49 PM on December 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

This is your grad school job, right? Ignore the potential political consequences of living/socializing with your neighbors -- you won't be at the company long enough to deal with them. Do your work well and enjoy your neighbors. Once you start working in your chosen field, you won't be able to get away with stuff like this.

But if they're disturbing your living situation, set firm boundaries. Ex: "Hey guys, don't come knock on my door drunk. I don't like it, so don't do it."
posted by lockestockbarrel at 3:06 PM on December 16, 2007

Trick to avoiding unwanted visitors at your door (or unwanted callers on your phone): don't answer it. I never answer my door unless I'm expecting someone, and I know many people screen their calls as well. If you're asked about it by Coworker X later, say that you were having an intense phone call or even were napping/in a bad mood, and weren't expecting anyone, so you didn't want to answer.

Don't worry about being associated with the wrong people through office gossip. Bosses at work really don't care what you do in your free time, and I can't imagine they would put much stock in office gossip about you.

I don't think this is enough to move apartments over. If you like Coworker X when he's not wasted, meet up with them earlier in the evening, then go your own way as you have done. Sidestep requests for beer runs you aren't interested in performing with blunt refusal--it's kind of weird of them to ask you anyway. Just say you don't feel like doing it. They may think you're a jerk, but they probably won't bug you about it again.

This is just one of those normal tests of your grown-up-edness, and I'm sure you'll pass with flying colors.
posted by tk at 6:54 PM on December 16, 2007

There are a lot worse problems to have than over friendly coworkers. You might ask yourself if their behavior is really is so terrible and whether you need 'saving'. Unless they're doing something illegal around you it seems the worst that might happen to you is a little bit of unexpected fun. But either way, it's possible to set clear boundaries with people and still be friendly and accommodating. If you don't want to party with them after work then be friendly with them during the work day eg have lunch with them. When they inevitably invite you out something along the lines of , "I'm totally exhausted from school and work. Maybe just 1 drink." For stupid shit like beer runs you can just say, 'Sorry, no, I don't want to.' Don't bother explaining yourself since this is your prerogative. There's nothing wrong with saying no, even to friendly coworkers you see everyday. Every once in a while, assuming it's a reasonable time and they haven't asked you to do anything all week, you can do them a favor and run down to the store for them but make it clear that you're not their personal delivery service.
posted by nixerman at 2:28 AM on December 17, 2007

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