The Journal's guide to navigating being friends & working together

Balancing the dynamics of working with your friends, classmates and significant others

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It’s often said that when it comes to your workplace, you shouldn’t mix business with pleasure. 
 
But when that workplace is at your university, and your boss and coworkers are oftentimes your friends, classmates or significant others, a student’s work and personal life inevitably mixes. 
 
That can make for a complicated dynamic — how do you balance taking instructions from your boss one minute, and going out with them later that night? 
 
It’s not always easy, but it’s absolutely possible to manage. And at Queen's — where everything from campus jobs and clubs to government are run by students — it’s also unavoidable. As someone who’s had to navigate this dynamic for a few years now, I’ve wracked my brain for every useful tidbit I could think of: here’s what I came up with. 

Communicate, communicate, communicate

As typical as it sounds, communication is important in any relationship. When you’re trying to navigate multiple kinds of relationships with one person, it becomes even more important. If you’re friends with your boss or coworker, tensions in your work relationship can easily affect your friendship and vice versa. It’s a common situation, so the best way to avoid this — or at least prevent any lasting negative feelings — is to ensure that you’re openly talking with the other person. 
 
If they haven’t done a task properly, speak up. If you think they did a fabulous job, tell them. And most of all, hold yourself accountable to your mistakes: if you messed up, say sorry. 
 
Transparency in your workplace is the best way to ensure that there’s no residual awkwardness when you leave work and transition into friend mode. Whether it’s good or bad, keep them updated on anything they need to know — and since you’re friends, they’d probably take it better than an acquaintance would anyway. 

Don’t hold onto things

Sometimes people are going to upset you. It happens — that’s life. But when it does happen, the worst thing you can do is hold a grudge. People mess up, they’ll say the wrong thing and sometimes tasks won’t get done the way you want them to. If you’ve talked to them about it, they’ve acknowledged their mistake and apologized, and you’ve worked together to remedy the problem, make like Elsa and let it go. Grudges don’t do anyone any good, and fixating on everyday problems will only make you miserable.  

Act based on the present, and draw the line

One of the most important things to remember is that when you’ve got a multifaceted relationship with your friend, significant other or classmate, you need to engage with them in the context of the situation. 
 
That’s my convoluted way of saying: if you’re at work, remember to maintain professionalism. If you’re out partying, treat your friend like you would any other friend.
 
These different dynamics will overlap — when you’re close friends with someone, there’s no need to pretend like you’re not when you’re working together. But remember the line: being friends with your boss doesn’t mean you act without their approval if it’s needed, and dating a coworker doesn’t mean it’s okay for extensive PDA in the office. Set ground rules if you need to. 
 
Learning to separate the different relationships you have with the people in your personal life is key to ensuring no upsetting situations arise. It will also  prevent your workplace and your nights out from becoming incredibly awkward. 
 
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