How work friendships can help—and hurt—your career

Alyssa Pry and Jeanie Ahn

Do you have a work bestie? It can be good for your career and your overall well-being, according to a new study by LinkedIn.

Workplace connections can be key to securing a better job: 70% of professionals get hired at companies where they have a professional connection, and 60% say their friends at work will be helpful later in their career for sharing job opportunities or giving a referral.

Since we spend 90,000 hours of our lives at the workplace and an average of four years at a job before moving onto the next opportunity, building strong friendships is critical to your attitude about work. A Gallup study found close friends at work help employees have a deeper emotional connection to their company.

For women in particular, social engagement is a crucial part of their job, with two-thirds of women surveyed saying the social aspect their job is a major reason they work. Workplace friendships also boost productivity: those with a work best friend are seven times more likely to be motivated and productive, according to the Gallup study.

But knowing how to draw boundaries is crucial to making these relationships function.

Young couple holding a tablet. Their friends sitting in the background looking at a computer.
Friendships at work can help advance your career.

“You need to remember they’re work colleagues and work connections,” says Lauren Paul, a communications consultant for LinkedIn. She recommends limiting your conversation topics, avoiding over-sharing, and building trust slowly over time.

Workplace experts also caution people to be aware of how their relationships with coworkers will be viewed by others. Consider including others (not just friends) on your team when working on projects to avoid forming work cliques, which can be damaging to office morale.

You should also avoid engaging in office gossip, which can be hurt work culture. According to a Harvard Business School study, “toxic employees” who gossip or bully coworkers can tank productivity in a workplace, with 66% of employees saying their performance declined when engaging with these types of people at work.

Setting clear boundaries with coworkers and managers and keeping your relationships professional while still friendly is the key to having a good balance in the workplace.


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