13 Reasons Why Making Friends at Work is Hard (Competition, Stress,…)

Last Updated on February 14, 2024 by Lifevif Team and JC Franco

Full concentration at work

If you’re feeling as if your workdays are a little void of friendship, you might be right. Nowadays, making friends at work is hard. But, most likely, it’s not an indication of something being wrong with you. Instead, there are good reasons why making friends at work is hard, and you are about to discover some of them!

It’s surprising to note that while the current culture is not to make friends at work due to designs of advancement, according to Milkround, studies show that as much as 75% of people who struggle to make friends at work find that it has a negative impact on their mental health and happiness. Also, surveys have shown that around 47% of people believe that workplace friendships are needed for practical and emotional support in the work environment but not so necessary outside of work. 

Making friends at work is hard for most people. Some people manage to get it right, but it doesn’t happen overnight or without complications. Below are several reasons why many people find it so hard to make friends in the workplace. Perhaps some of these apply to your professional life too.

13 reasons why making friends at work is hard:

1. You believe making friends will just happen naturally.

Making friends is certainly not just going to happen – unfortunately. If you truly want to make friends in the workplace, you will have to put in quite a bit of effort. A lot of people have had bad experiences with getting close to others in the workplace, so you might find them hesitant to open up or be anymore more than just professionally friendly. If you want friends, prepare to have to prove yourself as a friend first. 

2. The desire for professionalism.

If you take a look at how people are handling themselves in the workplace, you will notice that they strive for professionalism in the workplace. Work is work, and that’s the main focus there. Most people seeking an outstanding professional image in their career will avoid making work friendships that might hold them back or possibly shine a bad light on them (you are the company you keep).

3. Competitiveness (for acknowledgment and advancement/promotion).

Let’s talk about how competitiveness can ruin your chances of making friends at work. It’s hard for people to be your friend when they see you as a possible threat to their promotion or advancement. Anyone new added to the team is bound to be faced with some fairly tough competition. Don’t take it personally – ambition in the workplace can be a good thing. 

4. People like to keep work-home life boundaries.

The work dynamic has changed over the years. While people tended to make good friends in the workplace years ago, nowadays people prefer to keep their home life and work-life strictly separate. Having these boundaries in place allows for some privacy in one’s private life. If you can’t make friends at work, this might be the case, and again, this shouldn’t be taken personally. 

5. High-stress levels. 

Did you ever consider that high-stress levels might be getting in the way of good work friendships? Many employees are said to have reported stress causing them social issues on the work front. People who feel stressed are often tied up in their own heads and possibly close themselves off to new possibilities and situations. If you are stressed, or your work colleagues are stressed, making friends might be hard to get right. 

6. The culture of “always looking for a better job”, aka job-hopping.

Nowadays, people are focused on always keeping their options open. It’s not uncommon for someone to spend a considerable part of their days employed at a new job, looking for better alternative options. It can be hard to make friends if coworkers (or you) are consistently moving onto other jobs. A lot of people struggle to make friends in the workplace because they are job-hopping consistently.

7. Your employers are capitalizing on remote working.

In modern times, business owners are realizing the importance of setting employees up from home/remote working. This means that there are fewer real face to face scenarios with coworkers and obviously fewer opportunities to form friendships and connections. You might use messaging systems or videoconference calls to keep in touch and share info and ideas, but that’s not really a great basis for starting a new friendship. Employees that work from home a lot often find it very hard to make new work friends. 

8. Differences in age groups.

boss checking work of young trainee

Workplace friendships are often hard because of the vast array of age groups in the business. Most of the time, businesses hire people based on skillsets and qualifications. This means that you could get a 24-year-old working alongside 40-year-olds. While they share some work-related commonalities, they probably have very little else in common, thus making it hard to become anything more than professionally friendly to each other. 

9. Professional jealousy/insecurity.

Professional jealousy and job insecurity can lead to difficulties in connecting with coworkers. Coworkers might see you as a threat to their current job or their possible future promotion. They might hate that you got the position they always wanted, or perhaps they know that you earn more than them. This can lead to hard feelings – not a great basis for building a new friendship

10. The social impact of workplace hierarchy. 

There’s an interesting saying that goes “friends in high places”. Well, that’s a saying of days gone by. People in high places don’t typically mingle with those in lower positions in the workplace nowadays. 

In the workplace, there exists a definite hierarchy, and often this can cause problems in socially connecting with peers in the workplace. A coworker, who is higher up in the hierarchy, might not want to mingle or appear too friendly to any particular employee for fear of causing workplace issues or being accused of favoritism. 

11. No common ground – not everyone is there for the love of the job.

People who are excited about their job and interested in what they do might struggle to make friends with coworkers who are just there for the job and earn an income. People with a passion for their jobs are known to struggle to form bonds and friendships with coworkers with a “just here for the paycheck” attitude. 

12. Differences in interests.

You might find that some of the difficulties of making friends in the workplace stem from being very different people with nothing in common. It’s true – as it turns out, not everyone working at the same company automatically has the same interests. Chances are that the entire group is made up of very different individuals, which can cause problems for making friendships. 

On a work front, making friends is just the same as making friends in your personal life…you generally find it easier if you have something in common with the potential friends. 

Diverse business team

13. Many people are actively working to get ahead, not make friends. 

Why does it seem like people just don’t want to make friends these days? Is it because they have enough friends already? That’s probably not the case. There’s a general culture of “here to make money, not friends” in the workplace nowadays. 

Many people entering the job market are just trying to get ahead and simply don’t have time to be tied down to held back by friendships. If you are struggling to make friends in a career path that is fast-paced and ambition-driven, it’s probably a case of everyone trying to get ahead and gain some experience first. 

Last Word

If you would like to make friends in the workplace regardless of the obvious challenges thereof, be prepared to put a lot of time and effort into it. Workplace friends can be beneficial to your mental health, happiness, and job satisfaction, but they are not the easiest to acquire. Take the time to consider the people who you work with before you attempt becoming friends with anyone – some forethought will be good for your career.

JC Franco

JC Franco is a New York-based editor for Lifevif. He mainly focuses on content about faith, spirituality, personal growth, finance, and sports. He graduated from Mercyhurst University with a Bachelor’s degree in Business, majoring in Marketing. He is a certified tennis instructor who teaches in the New York City Metropolitan area. In terms of finance, he has passed the Level I exam of the CFA program.