My friend is my co-worker, HELP!

When I first started working in corporate I was bright eyes and bushy tailed. I would like to think I am a pretty friendly person and that I generally get along with everyone. Once, At a previous job, my co-worker and I were hired on within the same week and although we had very different lives we just clicked! I was so excited because I can’t work in a place where I feel like I’m not liked.

Before you knew it we were planning happy hours and opening up about the most personal things in our lives. I’m an open book, you could ask me anything and I will be honest. However, over time my coworker got frustrated with me over work related issues and she felt that since we had bonded, that she couldn’t say anything to me because suddenly business became personal. It took her having a complete break down for me to realize that she was frustrated with me. Two things were wrong with picture:

A. We didn’t establish a professional relationship first and friendship second.

B. Our relationship went from 0-100 in a week or two without actually learning how each other receive constructive criticism. We established a fake deep relationship that tricked us into thinking in our feelings instead of our logic.

I was doing things that were frustrating her but I had no idea so I continued to do them until *kaboom* an explosion of emotion burst forth. To be honest, I defended myself by saying that it really wasn’t a big deal with what she was so frustrated about because it was over something small. However, as time went on and the more I thought about it, the more I realized that her frustration wasn’t because I was doing something wrong, but because she didn’t feel like she could communicate with me. We never established a professional relationship or a personal enough one to be able to be honest with one another. Like when some one you barely know tells you that your pants are not flattering vs. your best friend being brutally honest because you know they are telling you the truth with an unbiased opinion because they genuinely want the best for you.

I had a friend, Grace, say that “to be unclear is to be unkind”. It really stuck with me. I am the type of person that if I am doing something wrong I would rather you be brutally honest with me, but should I expect everyone around me to just know that? No. My co-worker wasn’t upfront with me because I never establish a relationship where she knew that was the best way I received constructive criticism which left her unsure and unclear of how to approach me.

One day, my oldest brother, Jonathan, was talking to me about speaking in front of a crowd and how you have to tell the audience how they can react before you start your speech. It gives the audience a clear boundary and the ability to feel like they are appropriately engaging. For example, If no one knew you were a comedian, you got on stage, and started spouting off some pretty controversial jokes, do you think people would be laughing? Probably not. They might even leave because you have shocked them and since they had no expectations, they felt tricked. However, If you started off by telling them that you were a comedian, it was okay to laugh, and to just enjoy themselves, their mood might change, they may become more open to engage, and you have set up clear guidelines and expectations.

When working with a friend or becoming friends with coworkers, we should do the same thing. Set up their expectations, “Hi my name is Sidney, I work really hard, but if there is ever an issue or something bothers you, please do not hesitate to let me know so that I can fix it before it becomes a big problem.” Sometimes people need to know that you are not going to freak out. Everyone has a different personality and they deal with conflict in very different ways. We should be respectful of that. Being in corporate sometime we expect people to be like robots. That They are just supposed to do the right thing all the time, never get offended, and be upfront. Truth is, we are human, we all have feelings, and we need to realize that there are differences that make us unique and yet at the same time can make us a little hard to deal with at times. Be clear with your intentions and communication so that when something does come up, you have built a good foundation of trust and openness between each other.

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