The 6 Types of Office Workplace Relationships
Work. It's where we spend roughly one third of our lives and, in the process, where we encounter a variety of people who have either supporting or starring roles in our (9-to-5) office lives. Although dealing with workplace relationships of all kinds can be difficult, it can also bring a sense of camaraderie and genuine friendship. Workplace relationship ethics are imperative to having successful business partnerships with the people you encounter five days a week — but those very same relationships can be tricky to navigate. From work friends and direct reports to secret (or not-so-secret) romances, here are the six types of workplace relationships — and what they mean.
Workplace relationship: Office friendsThey're the ones you chat with beyond the normal social niceties of asking about their weekends or commenting on the weather. You know enough about each others' lives to have inside jokes, but don't know the nitty gritty details. They're a reliable shoulder to lean on.
Why it's a good thing:At the end of the day, it's nice to have someone in your corner. Work friends provide a sweet respite from the daily grind and give you an excuse to step away from your desk for a little lunch and socialization. It's a 9-to-5 support system that can sometimes evolve into a genuine friendship. Even if it doesn't, just knowing you vibe well with a like-minded individual can go a long way toward keeping you sane when the work piles up.
Risky business:There are risks of getting caught up in company gossip and potentially creating a toxic atmosphere for those in your little social network. It can also be somewhat distracting to have someone close on hand who shares all your opinions, views and jokes. Avoid becoming a clique and alienating other colleagues.
Workplace relationship: Office spouseThat one person, opposite- or same-sex, that you spend the most significant amount of time with, be it taking a one-on-one lunch or going for a quick walk around the block. They're your go-to for venting, gossip and career advice. At the end of the day, they're your workplace bestie and you would be devastated if they moved on and got another job.
Why it’s a good thing:Similar to work friends, an office "spouse" can go a long way toward easing any career pressures or anxieties. It's always nice to have someone you can turn to and vent — and there's something to be said for having one person to confide in versus an entire little social circle. When you reveal your innermost thoughts, your "spouse" is more likely to keep their lips sealed than anyone else on your team.
Risky business:You'll inevitably set the rumour mill alight. Even if there isn't the slightest hint of sexual chemistry between the two of you and it's entirely platonic, tongues will wag and you might find yourself in an awkward situation with colleagues or direct reports.
Workplace relationship: Mentor/MenteeFor many, this relationship might mirror some of the intimacy you share with an office spouse-type, albeit it in a more professional capacity. Typically, a mentor is sought out by a new hire or even a longtime employee looking to move up the ladder and leverage their talents with a little guidance from a seasoned professional.
Why it’s a good thing:You can be direct and frank with one another, something that is undeniably valuable when working in an office of strangers or passing acquaintances. You can ultimately learn from one another, with the mentor offering perspective on how to handle certain challenges and the mentee seeking career advice. It's a respectful friendship, kept at arms length.
Risky business:There aren't too many risks involved unless your working relationship fizzles for some reason. In fact, it will likely esteem you in the eyes of your colleagues as it suggests you're either seeking improvement as the mentee or offering a helping hand if you're in the mentorship role.
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Workplace relationship: ColleaguesThis is purely professional. A colleague is the person on your team that you say hello to and comment on the weather with — but don't evolve past basic chit chat or work-related conversations. They're usually on the same level and pay grade as you and they're ultimately the people you actually need to work well with in order to accomplish your tasks.
Why it’s a good thing:Collaborating on a task or assignment can create camaraderie with a colleague you might not know that well on a personal level. You might discover you work well together and that your output has put you in your boss' good books. Having someone work with you on a task can also provide insight on different ways of thinking and completing tasks — it also might lead to a friendship.
Risky business:Things can get a little tricky when it comes to major personality clashes. It can be difficult to walk the fine line between professional colleagues and secret enemies if you both have different work ethics or ideas on how to complete an assigned task. Much like those dreaded team projects in school, if can be hard to work well with someone who is your polar opposite. Tread carefully if the going gets tough and reach out to a mentor or direct report if help is needed.
SEE ALSO: 10 tips for introverts to help them thrive in the workplace.
Workplace Relationships: ManagerThis relationship is entirely professional and circumstantial. In most cases, there is little daily interaction with your direct report beyond morning greetings as you'd typically be working more frequently alongside your fellow colleagues in similar roles.
Why it’s a good thing:It's always nice when you love your boss, but it's not necessary. Consider it a bonus. Typically, it can be somewhat uncommon for it to be friendly given the power dynamic — it's never easy when one person has significantly more to lose than the other — but that doesn't mean it can't be a healthy, happy working relationship. Also, think of the references you're bound to get out of a solid working relationship.
Risky business:Given that a manager's opinion of their employee could potentially make or break a career, it'd be wise not to burn bridges when it comes to this type of relationship even if you don't really like the person. Although this goes for both sides, it's the manager who has the upper hand in this power dynamic. It's a vital relationship that can play a large factor in overall workplace satisfaction and, if the going is tough, it could make you hate your job or just be a nightmare for you both.
Workplace Relationship: Office romanceConsidering we spend roughly one third of our lives at work (eek!), it's only natural that some people meet their partner in a workplace setting. Although not always, many evolve into lasting unions that make the 9-to-5 grind bearable.
Why it's a good thing:Because you're in love! For anyone who has struggled with dating in the real world, it can be incredibly exciting and refreshing to meet someone that you think might actually be "the one." Working together gives you the opportunity to get to know all aspects of a person's personality — after all, how many people can say they know exactly how their significant other acts around bosses or colleagues? It lends you a sense of truly knowing the other person, in every sense of the word. Also, when one of you needs to vent, the other person will completely and utterly 100 per cent understand where you are coming from.
Risky business:Given that you're in a professional setting, there will come a time when you'll need to let HR in on your little love affair — especially if one of you is in a position of power over the other. But setting aside all that, you might also end up "taking work home with you." If you've had a stressful day or you just need to vent about Brian's micromanaging or Susan's messy desk space, you run the risk of constantly talking about work outside office hours. As a result, you're not giving yourself space and time to unwind and focus on your other priorities. It helps to set boundaries around "office talk" at home so that you're not consumed by it around the clock. It's a surefire way to dampen the mood.