NAVIGATING FREINDHSIP IN THE WORK PLACE.

Image: ¡Stock/Peoplelmages)

Let me start with a bold opening statement by saying “YOUR CO-WORKERS ARE NOT AUTOMATICALLY YOUR FRIENDS.”

Beautiful friendships among co-workers can be found a lot in Hollywood movies and my favorite is the movie, the Intern. But unfortunately in a real life setting, a lot of us struggle to make meaningful relationships at work, let alone meaningful friendship.

A lot of people hate their jobs not necessarily for the kind of job they do but for the people they work with. And sadly, we are faced with putting our energy to thrive through a day by making sure we guard our emotions or avoid a colleague or fight back on days we deem it necessary to put people in what we call their “right place”.

Having worked in the professional space for eight years now, I can say for a fact that the work environment affects a great part of our adult lives because the work place is one major place our adult lives revolve around. Sometimes, it even demands more from us than any other place we find ourselves being a part of.

Just like labeling emotions correctly help in regulating them, labeling a relationship that exist between a colleague enables us to regulate our expectations of them. Some people are truly lucky to build beautiful relationships with their colleagues to the point that they can refer to them as best friends and still get the job needed to be done at work effectively done.

There are few things I can admonish when it comes to building a good rapport with colleagues at work, not necessarily friendship but a good relationship enough to enjoy your working space at least to a point that makes you still want to wake up and go to work.

1) RESPECT OPERATIONAL BOUNDARIES.

One of many reasons there are chaos at our work places is the fact that there are too many “wanna – bes “. Wanna-be HR’s, CEO’s, managers, customer service providers, secretaries, personal assistance,IT professionals, and the lists go on and on. Having knowledge about something doesn’t mean you are authorized to do them especially if it isn’t indicated in your KPI.

People don’t like to stick to their own job descriptions especially in departments that work directly with other departments to promote team work. The temptation often is the desire to do the things one has some fair knowledge about . If we each respect highly our job descriptions, even in times we want to offer help, we will seek the opinion and professional advice of those that know the job well and are authorized to do them to direct us to offer our help effectively and efficiently. The fact that you have good intentions of helping doesn’t excuse the fact that it can be done wrongly. Most often, that becomes the basis of forging pettiness.

If we do this and do this well, a lot of pettiness we find in the work place will be minimized to only days we just for some reason aren’t in good mood and even with that, we still will find better ways to handle a lot of things that come our way

2)RESPECT PERSONAL LIVES .

One of my colleagues told me one time how she has prevented a lot of colleagues from seeing her WhatsApp status for the sake of protecting her peace of mind and I gave her a high five for that. The reason why there’s so much gossip in our work places is that people simple do not know how to sit and entertain their own business. We assume once we work with someone, we have the right and audacity to their private lives. We watch what they do and gossip among ourselves and tag them with particular names. We forget that people have lives and entirely different personalities when they come to work. To use myself as an example, At work, I am fully medic inspired creature but at home, I am the woman that loves to experiment with her food, loves to dance,loves to read and write poetry, loves to wear shorts on any ordinary day and loves to openly live her life on social media. It ends there. It is my life and my choices and it is beneficial to my entire being not just as a worker but as all the parts of the woman I am outside my work. Because I understand and appreciate owning my own narrative outside the work space, I also do let others own theirs. In fact, I don’t tell people directly in their faces( something I should practice doing) but I really get disappointed when people try to bring other peoples private matters in a conversation. I fear those people because I know I am likely to be their next victim the next time it is someone else sitting in front of them. How a colleague chose to do her wedding, a birthday party, spend his/her weekend, wear to a party, who they are dating, and many private matters are certainly none of your business and hence shouldn’t raise it up with anyone.

It is highly unethical to talk about a colleague’s personal life publicly or privately with other co-workers or even your family, as some people are so fond of doing when you aren’t invited to. A lot of workers paint pictures of their colleagues lives to other relationsof theirs like their parents, partners, husbands, children, spiritual leaders and friends when it is not in their business to do. I am not saying people can’t come in conversations but I am saying I’d know what to do and when

3)YOU HAVE NO ENTITLEMENT TO WHAT ISN’T YOURS.

I love to share my food with my colleagues. There are days I will wake up at dawn and make sandwiches or bake and just take them to work and share it randomly to anybody I see, from the security man to the last person in my department. I often don’t have names in particular. It is recently that I consciously selectively decide who to give and not necessarily who not to based on some experiences I have had. That is me. Sharing is my personality and in doing so I become aware of the many ways I can show kindness to people on any normal day. Unfortunately, after sometime, I realize some colleagues had the habit of picking things that were mine without asking for it or telling me. I used to keep things in my locker and kept it unlocked for easy access for myself and people who might need something but on a very busy day couldn’t get it for them myself but when I realized how some people felt entitled to what belonged to me I ended that quickly and I made sure I shared my sentiments about that habit too. Thank God it’s better now.

The issue of entitlement is a big problem with people in general. We feel entitled once we have the slightest relationship with someone. But no matter the level of relationship we have with someone, we can’t have anything unless we have asked from them.

4)IT’S NOT PERSONAL .

A lot of people will campaign for emotions to be kept from the work place and while I deeply and genuinely understand why they will opt for such an option, I believe emotions should be welcomed at the work place but be regulated. A lot of things are taken in so much on personal levels at the work place. I have developed my own coping skills over the years by filtering the things that I allow to get attached to my emotions. I have resolved to leave work to my home by leaving behind all unresolved emotions. If I really need to talk to you about it, I will send a mail or text message. If I don’t, I will simply ignore and trash it out waiting for another best opportunity to share my sentiment should it happen again. Again things like non-conformance reports, queries, incidental reports, etc are not meant to degrade the professional level of workers, sadly in some places they do and because they do, they are taken on personal levels and that is why a lot of people fight back when these things are issued especially in situations they are innocent. But just like my CEO consistently reminds us, these documentations are there to help us know the lapses in protocols and help in amending them
and also help in retraining purposes.

5)CELEBRATE OTHERS .

People are used to the concept of Narcissism been centered around relationships. But Narcissistic people are also people who can’t stand other people being celebrated or being the center of attraction. They always have something to criticize about someone or something to say to steal the attention back to themselves and there are a lot of such people especially in our work spaces. There are some people who simply can’t enjoy something if it isn’t coming from them. If a vendor isn’t recommended by them, then that vendor isn’t good. If they haven’t used a product someone has recommended, then that product isn’t good. If someone shares a first hand experience of a place, they have been there million times and that one time experience indirectly means nothing.


I want to believe many times that it is a blind spot and such colleagues have no idea what they are doing but I guess most of them do.
No wonder the high level of stress in our work places. A lot of employees spend significant amount of their energy thriving through a toxic work environment than putting it into their actual work. A lot of people hate their
jobs because of the people they work with
and not necessarily the job themselves. I am
telling you for a fact. A lot of adults face more
stress at work than anywhere else.

6)WORK PLACE ISN’T HOME.


Someone shared a story of a male colleague who passed an interesting comment about who in his opinion was likely to be considered a marriage material among his female colleagues by using the “bowl washing standard”. According to him, the female colleagues who were always washing the bowls after the men were done eating were likely to be considered as marriage material.

Such absurdity!!


A lot of male colleagues especially in the work place blindly come to work expecting their female colleagues to act as their sisters or wives. The same way, a lot of female colleagues expect their male colleagues to act as their husbands or brothers. The same with older colleagues who often demand some kind of unique respect from other younger colleagues by virtue of their age differences. The work place is a universal ground for productivity and irrespective of a person’s gender or age, there should be equal and mutual respect shared. To be honest, I love an environment you can respectfully address a colleague irrespective of their age, gender or marital status by their first names or professional titles and not just using the “aunty, uncle, madam, Mrs or Mr “ titles to prove any extra way of showing respect. To be honest, these things do not really say anything much about respect. In fact, respect is a prove of action and not just titles.

Your colleagues are not your friends but maybe they can. And as I am tempted to advice that you don’t build one, I am delighted to say do build one if you can and your environment seem promising. Annabelle Nartey and many others remain someone on any given day I can call a friend at work. She is one of those people I don’t know about others, but had a kind heart for people.

At my work station, I have printed one of my favorite poems from Hafiz to remind me of the importance of working towards being a human with a heart that let others shine, and it reads

“Even After
All this time
The Sun never says to the Earth,

“You owe me.”

Look What happens
With a love like that,
It lights the whole sky”

If we will be intentional about how we relate to people in the work place, if we will be intentional to work on ourselves and be gracious to one another, our work environment will be one of the places we thrive so well and that will also in a great way effectively help productivity.

As I end this series on friendship, I want to leave you with the words of maya Angelou

“You only are free when
you realize you belong no
place – you belong every place-
no place at all.
The price is high.”

I have been living my life religiously with this quote for many years. I don’t hold attachments to a place or anyone. I let myself love as much as I can. The only person I deeply belong to is my self. I can’t get wrong by myself anyday but I can with people. And so I thrive to approach all relationships as such. First I belong to me, and then there’s a mutual sharing of ourselves when we meet together.

I have been living my life religiously with this way for some years now. I do not let myself hold any attachments to a place or anyone. I let myself love as much as I can. The only person I deeply belong to is my self. I can’t get wrong by myself a lot of times but I can with people because I am an imperfect human being dealing with another imperfect being. And so I thrive to approach all relationships as such. First I belong to me, and then there’s a mutual sharing of ourselves when we meet together.

– Jo Nketiah

It is my hope that these write ups encourage and help you find your own narrative with friendships – good friendships that build you up strong and wise.

Devotedly yours,
Jo Nketiah

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