11 Tips for Working With a Friend

Updated June 3, 2022

Working with friends can be a wonderful experience whether they are a new friend you made at work or a friend you decided to work with. However, working with a friend you already have can come with some potential complications that require some planning and thoughtfulness to navigate. If you are interested in working with a friend or already work with a friend, you might wonder the best way to handle your relationship at work and outside of work.

In this article, we explain why you might want to work with friends and provide 11 tips for working with a friend, including understanding how people act at work, establishing rules and communicating well.

Why might you want to work with friends?

There are many reasons why you might want to work with friends. Perhaps you have a friend who works at a company that you really want to work at as well. Perhaps you are close friends and you want to see them at work. Perhaps you want to get to work quickly and your friend has a connection, or vice versa. Perhaps your company needs to hire for a position you know your friend would be great at. Whatever the reasons, working with friends can be enjoyable as well as complicated.

Related: 15 Rules for Friendships at Work

11 tips for working with friends

Here are some tips for making working with friends more enjoyable:

Remember that you're friends

Working together may cause you to find problems with your friendship because of competitiveness or other work-related issues. This is pretty normal, and one way to maintain your friendship is just to always keep in mind that you are friends above all else. It's likely that you don't want your friendship to be hurt by what happens at work, so taking care to remind yourself that you're friends when feelings of competitiveness or frustration over work problems arise can prevent a problem from escalating.

Understand work personas

Many people act differently at work than they do at home. You may find that your friend acts differently when you spend time together outside of work than they do when you're at work. You may also find that's true for yourself. This doesn't mean you're not friends or that you can't share a friendship outside of work. It just means that one or both of you wants to behave a certain way at work, usually to emphasize your professionalism or leadership.

It's best to avoid pushing your friend to act as they do outside of work because they probably have a reason for acting a certain way at work. Similarly, if they are confused about why you act a certain way at work, it might help to discuss why you act that way and to reassure them that outside of work, you will be the same as usual.

Prepare for the fact that hiring and firing power can be complicated

If you or your friend are each other's supervisor, it can complicate a friendship. In general, it may be best to avoid reporting to someone who is a friend, especially if they are a close friend. That doesn't mean you can't be friends with your manager or that either of you isn't capable of being fair in that type of situation. It just means that reporting to a friend can be challenging for everyone involved. It can give other employees the impression there might be favoritism, or it might make it difficult for the manager to reprimand their friend.

If this is a situation you find yourself in, it may take extra effort to keep things professional and avoid hurt feelings. You might find it doesn't work for you or you might find that it's okay and that it doesn't disrupt your friendship or your working relationship. Whatever you discover, it's best to be prepared for the possibility of complications.

Related: Pros and Cons To Consider When Becoming Friends With Coworkers

Remember to appreciate each other

You might find that your friend is the person you always turn to in a crisis, or that you ask your friend to take care of tasks you don't feel you can ask others to handle. You might also find that after spending your days working together that your time spent together after work feels less important or special. Whatever the case, it's important that you remember to appreciate each other, either at work or after work. Putting some effort into making sure they know you care can help you maintain your friendship and professionalism.

Communicate well

One of the most important parts of working with a friend is to communicate well. In order to maintain both your friendship and your professional relationship, you probably want to talk about what that will look like before you work together and throughout the process. If you have concerns with something your friend does at work, address it during work hours if needed. If you have more personal concerns that are related to your friendship, it's probably best to discuss that outside of work. Either way, communicating is important to maintaining a positive relationship at work and outside of work.

Related: How To Be a Good Communicator

Celebrate their achievements

It might be tempting to compare yourself to your friend's achievements at work, but doing so can cause issues with jealousy, particularly if you start at the same level and one of you gets promoted. You may feel competitive with your friend, which is okay as long as you use it to fuel your own ambition and not to feel negatively about your friend. Comparing the two of you or resenting your friend's achievements can damage your friendship and your professional relationship. Instead, focus on celebrating your friend's achievements and working on your own achievements.

Related: 22 Ways To Celebrate Wins at Work

Maintain professionalism at work

It can be challenging to behave differently towards your friend at work compared with your interactions in your personal life, however doing so can be important to maintaining both sides of your relationship. Making sure you remain professional at work can help separate your work relationship from your friendship and also help how others in your company see you. If you are always professional, even around your friend, you show your colleagues and managers you understand how to behave in that context.

Work with people you can spend a lot of time with

You usually don't spend 40 hours a week with your friends unless you live with them, so going from a regular friendship to a friendship where you work together can drastically increase your time together. Even if you're working part time, it can be a lot more togetherness than you're used to. For this reason, it's best to be sure that if you're working with a friend that they're a friend you can spend a lot of time with.

Not everyone falls into that category, so it's good to decide before you accept a position with a friend or encourage a friend to work at your company if the two of you are compatible for more time together. You can also assess if the positions the two of you are in are positions that interact a lot. If your friend works in a different department and you'll only see each other on breaks, that feels different than if you sit next to each other all day and perform similar duties.

Create rules for working together

Before you work with a friend, you probably want to have a conversation about what that will look like. For instance, there may be aspects of your personal life you don't want to share with your coworkers, so you might ask your friend to not bring those things up at work. You don't need a lot of rules, but consider what parts of working together might cause issues either in your friendship or for your careers and discuss how you plan to address these concerns.

Additionally, if you are starting a business with a friend, you definitely need rules and structure. This can include having contracts detailing ownership and responsibilities, deciding how you'll make business decisions and establishing protocols for the business. It might seem easier to trust your friend, but it will make things move much more smoothly to plan ahead and put your plans in writing.

Understand different working styles

One challenge you may find in working with friends is that the two of you have different working styles. Maybe your friend hates any distractions and interruptions during their workday, but you like to stop to chat in between bursts of hard work. Since there is a wide variety in how people prefer to work, you may want to discuss working styles with your friend so that you're sure you understand how they like to work. Accommodating each other's working styles can help maintain your working relationship and your friendship.

Grow other work friendships

One potential issue with working with a friend is that your already-established friendship might keep you from spending time with other coworkers that you could potentially be friends with. This might lead to a negative impression from your coworkers or to you and your friend being isolated. This is especially challenging when one of you is a manager and the other isn't, as it can encourage an impression of favoritism. If you grow other work relationships and friendships, however, your team have an opportunity to get to know you and are less likely to assign negative reasons to your behavior.

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