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Making Friends at Work

Shortly after being hired for my dream job, I was invited to join an all-staff meeting with my future team and close colleagues. I was a bundle of nerves and excitement as I hopped into a cab and rushed into the city for the important day of introductions.

As I joined the meeting of perfectly outfitted, influential people, I worried that the ugly underbelly of the next season would be found in the characters I would have to endure. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised by the kindness and sincerity of those I encountered.

Soon, I had met everyone I would be working with closely except for one  the girl who was being hailed as the architect of the meeting and the mind behind many details. I feared her. It could not be possible that in a city like Washington, D.C., my office could be filled with only such kind people. Certainly, she would be the one to unleash my every insecurity with her overstated competence.     

When I finally met her, it turned out I was wonderfully wrong. She was indeed sharp and competent and could have thrown her weight around, but she didn’t. She was kind and humble and a team player in every sense of the word. She sought to learn from me and affirmed my strengths instead of her own. I came to respect her greatly.

Now, years later, I consider her and the other women I worked with in that office among my dearest friends. The encouragement and sharpening they offer me in my career and in Christian character is priceless, and I’m so thankful that instead of stodgy professionalism and catty rivalry, we each managed to build one another up in an industry stereotyped by aggression and competition. We dove beneath the waves of demanding projects and high-pressure events, and found each other’s hearts.

Not easy, but worth it.

Having friends at work is not always effortless. Insecurities, stress and competing agendas can make the time between 9 and 5 a subtle battleground that erects walls between teammates, while others err on the side of being so casual and familiar that they compromise the goals of an organization with their lackadaisical approach to the workplace. These extremes have motivated the common advice to not make friends at work, but recent studies and articles have highlighted that workplace satisfaction and productivity are tied to positive friendships at work.

In a recent Forbes article, the author highlights that people today are hungry for authentic interactions in all areas of life, including at work. A biblical worldview coincides with these findings through the established understanding that as men and women created in God’s image, we were designed for relationship with Him and with each other.

As followers of Christ, we need to not lose sight of this. We need to have eternal lenses for how we view all of our relationships, including professional ones. If we get caught up in our own insecurities or become tunnel-visioned about maintaining an image, we stand to lose out on the kingdom purposes behind each season and each relationship.

The Bible instructs us to value people for more than their functionality and to esteem them above our personal agendas no matter how noble our end goal might be. Philippians 2:3 implores us to, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” We need to ask God for insight into how to interact at work with this perspective of our colleagues.

Start small.

If friendships at work are hard for you, start by small consistent actions of kindness. You don’t need to pour out every detail of your life with your office mate, but be approachable. Be cheerful. Say good morning. Occasionally pick up an extra cup of coffee on your way into work for someone. Expect good things from one another. Instead of fearing intimidating co-workers, learn from them. Resist the seduction of pride and mistrust, and you may find a richness in your work day that goes on to bless your life for a long time to come.

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