office non-romance

10 Women on Making Friends at Work

Photo: Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Corbis

Work friendships are often the most fun part of office life. Sharing gossip, goals, and frustrations with a buddy is good for your mental health, not to mention your career. But when the path to friendship runs through rows of cubicles, things can get bumpy. What if your friend gets promoted and suddenly becomes your manager? What if you’re the manager and you have to fire your friend? What if your friend won’t stop touching your hair? Below, ten anonymous women tell their stories of work friendships — the good, the bad, and the excessively huggy.

1. The Woman Who Needed Her Friends to Get Through (and to) Work

“At one of my old jobs, I had to take a subway, a train or bus, and finally a van just to get to the office at very-early-o’clock. A number of us wound up forming little carpool squads based on our respective neighborhoods. The commute quickly became the best part of my day: We talked about work, we talked about boys, we went for fro-yo runs, we listened to a lot of Drake. It was like being in high school again, minus the malaise and plus a paycheck.”

2. The Woman Who Had to Fire Her Friend

“I had to let go of one of my friends at work. The decision was made by my boss, but as her manager, I was the one delivering the news. To be fair, her work was lacking, and we gave her more than a few chances to turn things around. She improved, but my boss had made up her mind. Being friends definitely complicated the situation. When we talked, I kept saying it was my boss’s fault — which was true, but also I didn’t want to damage our friendship. We’re still friends years later, so I guess it worked.”

3. The Woman Who Believes in Karma

“I work in fashion editorial, which is pretty dog-eat-dog. But that just makes friendships all the more necessary. A work friend of mine from San Francisco moved to New York, and since she knew I was desperate to move, too, she helped find me a place at her magazine — even though that meant we’d be competing for promotions. A few years later, I’m the one in a position to help, and I’m doing it because of karma. Another friend was miserable at her job until I managed to get her in at my current company, and now she’s much happier. I’m a fan of paying it forward.”

4. The Woman Who Got Burned by a Frenemy

“My parents used to tell me, ‘Don’t overshare at work. Keep your personal details to yourself. Your professional goals should stay personal.’ Once, I was out with a work friend for drinks and ended up divulging an idea that I was planning on presenting to our CEO. Later that week in a group meeting, that very ‘friend’ stole my idea for herself! She presented it without giving me even a nod. Suddenly I understood where my parents were coming from.”

5. The Woman Who Prefers to Keep Work and Play Separate

“I’m never the first person to initiate hanging out with work people. At work I’m really focused on what I do, since there are so many moving parts for the multiple shoots that I work on. So when a group is going out for drinks or something, it’s always someone else inviting me. I have friends outside of the office, and I like to keep work and play separate. There are a lot of people in my company that I would prefer not see me dancing around the East Village after a few drinks.”

6. The Woman Who Compartmentalizes

“I used to work with one of my friends. We both have very strong personalities at work, and we would argue about design issues a lot. There was one time when we had a really intense argument right before getting off work, but we’d already made plans to hang out for happy hour. I was worried she might cancel since we were practically screaming at each other. But when the day ended, she grabbed her bag and said, ‘Let’s go!’ At the bar, we had a great time, and neither of us brought up the work problem. I learned from her how to separate work and personal life, and not take work issues personally.”

7. The Woman Who Ghosted an Old Work Bestie for a New One

“I already had a work bestie named Karen when Jessica started working at my company. We invited Jessica out a few times, but she kept saying she had plans. Eventually we broke her down and the three of us started doing lunch and happy hours and hanging out on weekends. However, I quickly realized there was only room for one work bestie in my life. Jessica became my new No. 1 and Karen was phased out. It got a bit awkward when we started sneaking out to lunch without her, but she’d blown us off several times for her new boyfriend, so that eased our guilt. We never had a falling-out; it was just this sort of unspoken situation. Cut to today: Jessica was in my wedding, and our friendship is still going strong.”

8. The Woman Who Would Rather Not Be Hugged at the Office

“Whether a work friendship succeeds depends a lot on a mutual understanding of boundaries. At my first job out of school, there was a group of us in our 20s. We’d go out after work, and once we all got close, when we’d leave the bar, we’d hug each other good-bye. Well, one girl started doing that at work — actually hugging people good-bye at the office. There were other things, like her wanting to play with our hair … just completely inappropriate office behavior. She couldn’t separate how to act with her friends in and out of work. We called her out on it (politely) and she didn’t take it well at all.”

9. The Woman Who Gets by With a Little Help From Her Work Husband

“My office is mostly guys and it’s a pretty social atmosphere. My work husband and I hate a lot of the same things, so we bonded over that. One day we snuck out of work to see a matinee of Taken 2 and we’ve been best friends ever since. Our friendship keeps me sane in a job I don’t always enjoy. He is someone I can complain or vent to, we help each other when one of us is out of the office, and he does things I really appreciate, like changing lightbulbs or fixing a computer issue so I don’t have to go through the nightmare of opening an IT ticket.”

10. The Woman Whose Work Friendship Has Lasted 35 Years

“I met Nancy some 35 years ago when we worked for the same company fresh out of college. Although she and I worked in different departments, we became fast friends. The friendship just naturally grew outside of the workplace as we both married and then became mothers around the same time. We ended up going on family vacations together. Since our kids were around the same ages, they become close friends. We share so many happy memories, but the most recent and special is that last month, my daughter married Nancy’s son.”