Many hours spent in the company of your colleagues can blur boundaries. You go from acquaintances to friends to besties. Next thing you know, they're asking for favours...
Having colleagues in the office you can socialise with is great. Coffee breaks are spent over conversations about the new guy you’re swooning over or frustrations over your increasing workload.
That’s all wonderful, and it’s vital for your well-being to have people you can celebrate the weekend rugby's happenings with. However, with long hours spent together (even after hours), it’s easy for your colleague to cross the professional line, which can add a major dent to your friendship.
Consider this scenario: Your colleague asks you to write a personal letter to your manager to put in a good word for her. Even though that you’re uncomfortable with her request, it can be tricky to say no without coming across as abrasive.
But, as the saying goes, “Straight talk breaks no friendship,” or office camaraderie, in this case.
So next time your colleague asks for a favour – whether it’s money, an introduction to your boss, to lie on his/her behalf – that you’re not comfortable doing, use these guidelines to help you out of the awkward situation:
Return the request with a kind but firm ‘no'
You can respond with: I’ve given your request some thought, and it doesn’t sit well with me, so I’m going to say no. You can follow this with an alternative solution; one that’s appropriate and that you’re happy to do. For instance, if your colleague is asking for an introduction to your boss, you can give him/her some insider tips. You can say: If there’s one thing you should know about my boss, it’s that he loves [include a quality he’ll appreciate].
To avoid history from repeating itself, consider these tips to prevent your colleagues from crossing the office buddy line:
Be careful of oversharing
With so many hours spent in each other’s company, it can be hard for you and your colleagues not to confide in each other. However, when catching up turns to too much information and your colleague begins to share personal problems with you, you should try not to get overly involved. No one’s saying you can’t offer help where necessary. If you find that your colleague’s problem is affecting their work performance, it might be best to refer them to HR for assistance. This way, you’ll keep the issue at bay while lending a helping hand.
Don’t be afraid to call out your colleague
Regardless of your best efforts, it’s possible that your colleague may still insist on sharing too much information about their personal life. If your actions don’t make your feelings clear, be upfront and tell your colleague how you feel. You may say something along the lines of:
I’d prefer if we kept our work and personal lives separate. You don’t have to explain yourself. If you make your boundaries clearly known, people will generally respect them.
Keep it professional
No matter how you feel about your colleagues, always remember to keep things professional. Even if you aren’t friends with your colleagues, you don’t want to push people away when they might need your advice. Keep lines of communication open by engaging in conversations with your colleagues.
By doing so, you’re placing yourself as a considerate person with firm boundaries. And not somebody who says yes for the sake of it.