Maintaining a professional demeanor at the office can be challenging, especially when you’re comfortable with your co-workers. If you find yourself in this in-between stage of friendly and professional, these tips will help you to blend them more seamlessly.
Prioritize Work Over Conversation
While you may feel inclined to talk casually with your co-workers, not all times of day are designed for chatting. When it comes down to it, you should be prioritizing your work (and theirs) over your conversations. If you notice a colleague is particularly busy or deep into a project, reserve your discussion for the proverbial water cooler rather than distracting them – and don’t be afraid to do the same for yourself.
Take Cues From Your Co-Workers
If you work in an overtly friendly organization, you may feel chummy with all of your co-workers. However, that’s not to say all colleagues feel the same. Some may want to keep up that boundary between professional and private, which is their prerogative. So, take those non-verbal cues at face value and respect their wishes. Small talk is a respectable way to converse with someone you’re not particularly close to in a friendly manner. But don’t force a relationship on individuals who don’t want one.
It’s important to set boundaries in the workplace, especially with direct reports. While you may be close outside of the office, internally, you need to maintain that air of professionalism. Setting boundaries is a great way to do this. As a manager, it’s important that you understand discretion. For example, if you go to lunch with subordinates during the workday, you should maintain a professional, non-gossip-driven demeanor. Only you can set the boundaries that make the most sense for your situation, so don’t be afraid to verbalize them if need be.
Be Generally Helpful and Accommodating
Providing help to colleagues – whether answering a procedural question, assisting with a task, or troubleshooting technical issues – is a great way to build that bridge between friendliness and professionalism. Just be sure that people aren’t taking advantage of your kindness.
Be Aware of Conflicts of Interest
You are in charge of your own career, which means you hold the keys to success. Conflicts of interest can be a major pain point at the office, regardless of your position. Whether you’re a manager or entry-level employee, be mindful of the friendships at your workplace and always resort to a professional demeanor.
Blending friendliness with professionalism is easier said than done. However, you don’t need to segment your work life into one or the other; so long as you strike the right balance, you can enjoy the best of both worlds.