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Photo by Felipe Bustillo on Unsplash

Why it Can Be Tough to Have a “BFF” Relationship With a Work Colleague

Up until 6 years ago, I never understood the true meaning of “colleague.” Since I have been in my role in Children’s Services, surrounded by approximately 40 women, I have learned a lot about office and friendship dynamics.

When I first joined the team, I was an implant from a small town 5 hours north of the big city of Calgary and I was nervous, anxious and excited to be a part of a real “team” of fellow workers.

Before I started this position, I was the boss, at every job I have been employed in since I was 18. I have always been a manager, supervisor, owner, or “senior staff”. This new place on the totem pole, was new and scary for me.

I shared an office with a wonderful lady, who I grew attached to. She helped me get settled in my role, and we had many deep, private conversations, as we plowed through our caseloads and reports. She and I had a lot in common and shared many of the same views. We started in our positions, a month apart.

In the fall of our second year together, she applied for a Leadership position and got it! I was so excited for her, and proud of what she had accomplished, yet it sucked for me, as we no longer would be sharing space together. I knew it would completely change our friendship, and it did. We don’t spend any time together anymore, as she has embraced her new role, and is technically, one of my supervisors. She thrives in her position and it makes me smile when I see her in meetings, and in action, during deep discussions and plans within our team.

I have no desire to “move up the ladder” in our office, because it would mean riding a desk chair every single day, and not interacting with child care operators. I don’t want that. If anything, I wish to retire as a writer, or work in a different “protective” role for the last 15 years of my career life.

The other women in our office are all very nice. Out of the 20 some ladies in our office, I can look at each and every one of them and tell you 10 positives about their personalities. But I won’t be “friends” with any of them outside of work.

There are a few reasons for this:

  1. I like to come into the office and get my work done, without distractions.
  2. I had a BFF and she moved on, and it sucked.
  3. I often don’t have anything to say, when I speak to women at work. Unless it’s work related, as I like to stay private.
  4. I have a co-worker who is always trying to be close to me, and as much as I appreciate it, and her, she is too much of a distraction and I don’t want the private drama in her life, to become mine.
  5. Putting myself in social situations with any of them feels- awkward.
  6. Anxiety
  7. We have deadlines, responsibilities and reports to write. In the 7.25 hours of my day, I simply don’t have time for chit chat, or hanging out. I even sit at my desk over lunch, so I can take a break, and write on Medium. I have heard through the grapevine that this makes me appear as a “bitch” but I have to do what I have to do.
  8. My heart is actually sad, as I feel as though I lost my best friend. I still see her when I am in the office, and it saddens me that we don’t have a close relationship anymore. We were tight for 2 years and then “poof” we see each other and smile, or say a polite “hey”. We secretly know things about each other, that no one else in the world does, and now it has become “hey”.
  9. Geography: most of my colleagues live across the city, or in the adjoining city to mine. In order to make after hours plans, someone has to drive at night, and I am not a night time driver.
  10. Conflict of interest. Sometimes I may do things that make others “judge me”. My writing is the perfect example of that. I have told people quietly that I write in my spare time, and that i work out etc, but it doesn’t interest anyone else. If I share my private life, they don’t find it interesting. If I don’t share my private life, I’m a bitch . (Sighhhhh)

I have noticed lately that my old BFF has formed new relationships with other colleagues of ours. I have branched out somewhat, and have chatted or visited with a couple of co-workers on occasion as well, but it just feels awkward now, as if I am trying to replace my previous BFF. I miss her, but I don’t miss having a bestie at work.

So, here’s my new conclusion.

I will keep my colleagues at arm’s length, keeping our relationships professional and light. No sharing of deep, dark secrets, and no crossing lines of opening up my heart. We all share each other’s presence for 36.25 hours a day and that is enough. What we learn from each other in that time is valuable, for the most part, and I am quite content with that. I care for each and every one of them, but I am not ready to be a close friend or attachment to any of them.

I have close friends, outside of work, that I can share myself with, who don’t make assumptions or judgement calls about me, and I am quite content to be by myself, or with my partner at home. I love being in an environment without the distraction or “emotional sharing” expectation with others. Some of my close friendships can be intense, as we sip wine and talk about shit going on in our worlds, and in my professional role, I do not have the capacity for that. And that’s okay.

I am on Facebook with most of the women I work with, but I will never share anything that could be seen as a work/life conflict. I try to keep my humor generic, and my issues to myself. It’s a part of growing up, and being content with myself, and not needing to splatter my baggage for everyone to peer inside of, and try and sort out. Like I said, I stay pretty private.

I can honestly say, that the acquaintances/colleagues I work with, are all amazing, each in their own way. I would help any of them, in a heart beat, and I would support each of them, if that’s what is required from me, but at this point in my life, none of them can find room in my life, as their BFF.

Writer of relationships / early childhood and mental health . Poetry and fiction dabbler

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