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 friends
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 spouse
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/Mentee
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.
RELATED: How to boost your confidence at work.
Workplace relationship: Colleagues
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.