Making Friends At Work: The Shy Guide

Making the distinction between your work friends and your actual friends is something many of us do. And for lots of us, work is just about getting in, getting out and getting that paycheck, no chit-chat necessary. But if that’s the case, you’re probably missing out on the many benefits of becoming friends with your coworkers.

First off, it’s no secret that those who are well-liked at work tend to get ahead in their careers. But if that’s not a motivating factor for you, bonding with your colleagues is also about creating a good work environment. After all, we tend to spend more time with the people at work than we do with our own family and friends and, naturally, we share a large common ground with them: same employer, similar career goals and shared work struggles. Neglecting our work relationships is the equivalent to cutting off our main source of social interaction.  

Aside from the purely social aspect, cultivating a stronger relationship with coworkers also results in a more functional office environment in which challenges are met as a team. And who doesn’t want an extra pair of hands, an encouraging team member or a friend to moan to when you’re met with a hefty problem at work?

So in the name of playing the career ladder and having an all-around better day, we put together a few ways you can get your bond on with your coworkers.

Be Yourself

Try to minimize the ‘work face’ version of yourself (yes, we all do it!) and let go of the formal water-cooler chat while you’re at it. It’s tempting to become the person you think you should be while at work, but letting your guard down a bit is going to make you easier to bond with, and vice versa. Being the authentic version of yourself, even if that means revealing some of those scary human vulnerabilities, will make it so much easier to connect with your workers. After all, having a moan and a giggle about getting something wrong is much better bonding fodder than rigid weekend questions.

Be Appreciative

If you’ve ever silently fumed at your desk as a result of a work colleague not thanking you for your effort, chances are your coworkers have done the same. Lots of us feel like we don’t receive enough appreciation at work, so showing honest and thoughtful gratitude to your colleagues, even for something small, is an easy way to strengthen your work relationships.

Think along the lines of thank you emails or notes, or buy them coffee as a show of appreciation. Everyone likes to be reminded of what they bring to the table, just make sure you avoid sucking up and do it in a sincere way.

Practice Good Conversational Skills

Actively listening to your boss’s story about their weekend costs nothing and it’s an easy way to start up a friendship. But being a good conversationalist doesn’t stop with enthusiastic nodding (and daydreaming of something else entirely while you're at it), it also pays to get to know your coworkers and remember snippets of your conversation so you can follow it up with relevant questions later.

Recalling details from previous chats isn’t just impressive, it also shows you care. And sure, it sounds more like an old-fashioned courtship than a natural friendship, but little deposits of interest and personal touches will result in a stronger friendship than trying to go full 'bestie' straight away.

Remember People’s Names

It’s a small ask, but remembering and using people’s names shows your coworkers that they matter and are important to you. This is especially true (and especially impressive) if you work in a huge corporation and encounter colleagues you don’t see very often. Lift chat tends to flow a lot better when you remember someone's name. 

Join In With Out-of-Office Activities

Yes – you’re exhausted after work and the idea of beer and tacos with your coworkers doesn’t even begin to compare with Netflix and noodles in bed. But outside-the-office environments can work wonders to strengthen your bond with coworkers. Something about the office fosters a formal relationship, but getting to know someone in a neutral environment and avoiding work as a topic of conversation feels instantly more natural and less forced.

Have A Walking Meeting

If you’ve got a meeting scheduled with one other person, suggest a walking meeting. It’s not only beneficial to your health to get away from your desk space and get your legs moving, but it also brings the meeting into a more casual context where people are more likely to connect. Plus, there’s the option to grab a coffee and if there’s one thing we can all bond over, it’s caffeine.

Add Them On Social Media

Once an appropriate amount of time has passed, i.e. you've got their name down, had a couple of coffees and bonded over Game of Thrones, it might be an idea to add them on social media. It's a great way to break the ice and it shows you're interested in their life outside of just work-related stuff. 

Just make sure you keep some boundaries and don't get friendlier online than you're willing to be in person - 4 am snapchats probably aren't the best idea. 

Sometimes, our coworkers really can become our actual friends, but it’s certainly not a requirement to be BFFs with everyone in the office. By simply following these bonding techniques you can have a better work day, a better work environment and a higher chance of securing that promotion.