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3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Working with a Friend

Two people discussing by a window.

If you’re presented with an opportunity to work with a friend, it may seem like an easy decision. Work friendships are important after all, and if you already have a connection, it can be much easier to transition to a new role and organization.

But before you jump at an opportunity to turn a friend into a colleague, be sure to weigh all sides of the situation to ensure that this will be a good professional and personal fit.

How close are you and how closely will you be working together?

If you will be working on the same team with a friend or even reporting to her, there are some potential benefits. There will be less time involved in becoming familiar and comfortable with each other, and a close personal bond may translate to better collaboration and camaraderie from the get-go.

On the other hand, if your connection happens to be a loose acquaintance, that distance may serve you well in maintaining your friendship and developing a professional rapport.

But there is also the risk of relying too much on a personal connection and alienating other team members or blurring the lines between your personal and professional relationship. You can create a healthy balance by establishing guidelines for how you interact and the way you speak about work when you’re off the clock. For example, you may want to try to enforce a rule that neither of you will discuss work outside of the office.

However, if you’ll be in a different department or in a position that doesn’t require you to work together on a regular basis, this could be helpful toward setting and maintaining boundaries, especially if you are close friends. You may also gain the opportunity to interact with colleagues you don't often work with as well as learn new aspects of the organization.

If you think creating these guidelines will be restrictive or uncomfortable and you’re not willing to deal with any potential strain, then this may be a strong indication that you should reconsider working together.

What will happen if conflicts arise?

Even if you don’t end up working on the same team with your friend, you may face a conflict at the office or find yourself struggling to keep a personal issue from negatively impacting your work.

If you’ve never faced friction in your friendship, you’ll need to evaluate how to broach the subject of a professional conflict. Since you already have a personal relationship, it can be awkward to bring an issue to a friend, especially in the extreme case where disciplinary action may be involved. Consider how you’ll approach this friend and what conflict-resolution tactics you’ll employ.

Instead of waiting until an issue arises, you could plan regular check-ins, and:

  • Arrange for these meetings to take place in a meeting room at the office or in a cafe nearby.
  • Set a certain time limit and encourage honesty about any work-related issues or tensions.
  • Create a resolution plan and set a time to check in again about how you both feel things have progressed.

Depending on the nature of your conflict, it may be helpful to write down and log issues or incidents, practice phrasing that is thoughtful and not accusatory before voicing a concern, and even ask a neutral third-party member from HR to be present during a particularly difficult discussion.

On the other hand, if you’ve faced personal conflicts with this friend, reflect on how you’ve resolved those issues and whether or not this will cloud your ability to handle a workplace conflict that may come up. If you have successfully managed disagreements in an open and healthy way, this bodes well for your future working relationship.

Are you okay if your relationship changes?

Ultimately, one of the most important questions to ask yourself is how ready you are for the possibility that your relationship may change.

Here are a few scenarios to consider:

  • Less social time: If you spend a great deal of time together, imagine how seeing each other every day at the office will impact how you will interact socially. You may not want to spend as much time together in a social context.
  • Work may become your common ground: Working together could also help your friendship blossom in a new way since you’ll be engaged in a shared passion, and you may even find yourself developing more self-awareness as a result of this new layer to your relationship.
  • Your friendship may become strained: Consider how you’ll feel and how your friendship will fare if you or your friend become unhappy, exhibit passive aggressive behavior, or even ultimately leave the organization.

If you’re realistic about the what you'll need to do in order to maintain your relationship both in and out of the office, working alongside a friend can be a rewarding experience.

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About the Author | Yoona Wagener is a freelance writer and WordPress developer who believes in the value of nonlinear career paths. She has experience in academic publishing, teaching English abroad, serving up customer support to software end users, writing online help documentation, and mission-driven nonprofit marketing and communications.

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