How to Make Work Friends That MatterFeatured

Your next five work friends—not who you’d expect. In the fast-paced world of tech, it's easy to get bogged down with your day-to-day while trying to overcome imposter syndrome and navigating workplace gender bias. But, taking the time to build genuine connections with colleagues, especially those outside your immediate circle, can be a game-changer.

The Power of Diverse Work Relationships

Imagine never knowing there was the best breakfast burrito right along your commute because you were always walking on the other side of the road. That's an overly simplistic (and perfectly delicious!) way to portray what it's like to limit your work friendships.

By seeking out new connections beyond the colleagues you engage day-to-day, you’ll gain fresh perspectives and insights that can propel your career forward. When you build diverse interpersonal relationships at work, you activate a superpower you won’t get anywhere else, perspective with context.

Who Are Your Five New Work Friends?

To build that perspective, you need to start by expanding your work friends network. Consider getting to know these five types of colleagues better:

  1. Culture Creators: The people who keep the company running smoothly, such as executive assistants, workplace operations, or the onboarding team. They have the inside scoop on company culture and can be valuable allies.
  2. Someone You Admire: That coworker who always aces presentations, gave you a great hiring interview, or has an inspiring career path. Learn from their experiences and turn your work crush into a new work friend.
  3. Your Opposite: The person who seems to work in a different world, perhaps in another department, time zone or role. Maybe for you, it’s building relationships between technical and non-technical roles or customer-facing and internal roles.
  4. Your Past Self: Perhaps you used to do a similar job and can see remnants of your early ambitions in them. Reconnect with those early goals and gain a fresh perspective on your current path.
  5. The Team You Don't Always See Eye-to-Eye With: Connect with an individual on that team. Understanding their perspective can foster collaboration and build bridges across departments.

Building Bridges, Not Ladders

These relationships aren't about mentorship but about shared experiences. Whether you work remotely, in person or in a hybrid model, there are ways to connect.

Start small: Dedicate 30 minutes a week to contact your new work friends. You likely already do all these things with your current friends. Keep a few of these in mind as you build relationships with new friends at work:

  • Find common ground: Chat about shared interests, industry trends or upcoming events. I remember when a coworker I admired once asked me what industry trends I was tracking. That might be an excellent question for you and your work crush. I found the question overwhelming as I had just returned to work after parental leave. It’s okay to start with what seems like a trivial shared interest. For instance, I recently scheduled a call with equally enthusiastic coworkers to recap or viewing of Dune 2 the week it opened.
  • Be curious: You're already a great listener, right? Turn those listening ears to your soon-to-be friends. Ask questions and show genuine interest in their work and experiences. Keep the curiosity going and follow up over messages or in-person to hear more.
  • Offer help: See if there's anything you can do to support your new friends even if it's small. Ask what they’d wish for if they had a professional magic wand.
  • Tag along: Partner with your current work friends to invite someone you hope to get to know to an upcoming lunch or coffee chat.
  • Be natural: Do what feels right to you. This might mean saying, “good morning, how’s the week going” to folks in the break room if you’re in an office. For remote workers, maybe you reach out and offer congratulations when you hear of a colleague getting an award or promotion.

Don't get discouraged if you don't hear back from everyone – life gets busy sometimes and plan to reach out next month.

The Takeaway

As these new work friendships grow and along with broadening your professional perspective, you’ll view career progression in new ways, pick up tools to foster resilience and the energy to embrace new challenges.

So, think about who those five work friends could be for you. How would knowing them enrich your work life? Start building those connections this week!

I love all of this... but also I'll add some of my BEST work friends were made through.... trauma bonding :) I guess silver lining haha
I mean, if you don't have people to vent to, that can relate πŸ˜†....... it just makes the bomb tick faster. πŸ’£πŸ’₯πŸ’£
Same here. One thing I’ll add is that it’s important to make sure friends you connect with through trauma bonding also turn conversations in a positive direction. I find it’s not beneficial if you are constantly venting without considering potential solutions or discussing other topics. I’ve learned to not get involved with the co-worker who only wants to focus on the drama or I feel more negatively after talking to them.
Oh for sure!!! The friendship starts THERE but it evolves. You're so right that it's important to identify those who bring the mood down consistently.
I love this! It's given me a new mindset to go into relationship building :)
I'm reading a book that talks about this, right now: "Vital Friends". Community and connection are SO incredibly important, in ALL spaces, but especially in professional spaces in order to keep us motivated, inspired and in order to facilitate positive growth in all ways. Thank you for sharing this.
Right after I wrote this, Lenny's Podcast had the episode How to build deeper, more robustrelationships | Carole Robin (StanfordGSB professor, "Touchy Feely") It's a great listen!
Fantastic article!
I really liked your article. It adds an additional layer of "strategy" to friendships.I have always had an easy time making friends at work (and in life too, but that's different!) -- but I realized after reading your article that I never did it consciously and mindfully. I just went with the flow, wore my heart on my sleeve, and things happened! Your article gives a nice framework to making and growing work friendships. Again, thank you for sharing. Even for someone who is nearing retirement, these are good pointers!