Should your colleagues be your friends?

Hong Kong, 6 August 2021 Today is the last working day of my first job. I remind myself to not get so emotional because I can always meet them again. I’ve seen a lot of colleagues come and go in a my company or clients. I change project every 8 months or so. Trust me, it still hits differently when I am the one who’s leaving. I’ve been working for this client on and off for around 2 years, including being in a secondment in the last two engagements that allow me to be fully part of the team.

This is the first place that truly gives me working experience where I meet hundreds of colleagues from 18+ countries, who help me to grow, and make me feel belong. It sounds cliché but small part of me hesitate to leave this comfort zone.

A small thank you for the good times and teamwork we had

Your colleagues are your support system

My first career in IBM taught me how important it is to have a lovely, supportive, and inclusive team to work with you. Work can be tough, client can be demanding, issues can happen anytime but one thing that get you through and through is the people around you. I didn’t exactly remember what work we were doing at 11 pm in the office, but I do remember we played youtube videos and sing along. I didn’t remember why some nights were sleepless, but the memory of us bar hopping half sober is still very vivid.

When I started my career, some people advices me to have a clear boundary between personal and professional life. I do agree that we need to have some personal space, yet as I progress, I didn’t believe colleagues should just be colleagues. We spend 8 hours or more with our colleagues, that’s more than the time we spend with our family. If we don’t get along with them and treat each other like a friend or human, I’m sure we’ll be much less happy at work.

Find your tribe

The challenge is not everyone can be ‘friend’ with you. I learnt the hard way that we can’t make everyone happy. While a group of people appreciates my work, another group has a negative impression towards me because of the lack of trust, misunderstanding, and a series of unfortunate events happened.

Beside your peers, another important advice I often receive is to find a career sponsor — a leader who believes and is willing to invest in you. Now, the bigger question is how to find your tribe? The only way to know is to spend time and go through tough times to find out who truly value you, nurture you, got your back, also who you’re sincerely cheering for. It’s about give and take.

Take actions

After all, having a good relationship with your colleagues alone does not guarantee success. You will also need leadership, negotiation, problem solving skills to gain trust from your career sponsor and support system. I’ve also seen a few who made it to the top for their technical expertise or in-depth knowledge. But I’m pretty confident that having a good relationship with your colleagues definitely opens many doors that you may not know they exist at the first place. With open doors, exciting opportunities await!

Actionable tips for you who’s figuring out corporate life:

🏀 Get to know your colleague’s life outside work and be more open about yours

✔️ Deepen the conversations besides the boring “how’s your weekend?”

👯‍♀️ Participate at company events / gatherings

☕ Initiate lunch or coffee. If you’re not comfortable going in a big group, start with 1-2 colleagues

🎥 Find common interests, drinks work most of the time but there are other fun options too

All in all, treat them like your friends. This applies to your managers too! Remember, they are also human.

The ones who laugh together on #plsfix

Onwards and Upwards,

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