16 Disadvantages of Being Friends With a Co-worker or Colleague

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

business people are working together in modern office

Are you starting a new job and grappling with the decision of whether to make friends with your new co-workers or not? Being friends with a co-worker can be tricky – there are both pros and cons to workplace friendship. What to do? First, consider all of the possible disadvantages of being friends with a co-worker, so you’re better informed to decide on what’s best for you.

Making friends in the workplace can be complicated. On some level, being friends with your colleagues is nice. It’s great for teamwork, and at least you are always surrounded by friends. But what if you get close to a work colleague, think they are your friend, and it turns out to be a shallow or fake friendship? Then what?! By opening yourself up to a friendship, you could put your reputation and job on the line. 

Before making friends at work, consider the 16 below-mentioned disadvantages; so you can be better informed to decide.  

16 reasons to reconsider being friends with co-workers and colleagues:

1. They know too much.

When you make friends with a work colleague, you let them into your life. This means that they get to see a side of your life that would otherwise be private. They may soon know too much about your personal life. For instance, a work colleague that becomes a friend will know that you were out late last night at your favorite restaurant and might suspect that you called in “sick” for reasons other than genuinely being sick. A friend at work will also know what your insecurities and fears are, and these can be used against you later on. 

2. Competitiveness.

Being friends with your work colleagues could create hard feelings if competitive situations ever arise. If there’s a possible promotion available or an opportunity to prove your skill in the workplace, it might get awkward and hurtful competing with a friend for recognition. If you are simply competing with a colleague, it’s not quite so personal. 

3. Lack of work-life balance.

You see your work colleagues every single weekday, and if you are friends with them, you will probably see them after hours and on weekends too. Seeing too much of someone could lead to problems. There’s a saying that goes “familiarity breeds contempt” – that might ring true in your life!

4. Risk of an unprofessional workplace.

Being friends in the workplace could lead to an unprofessional business image. Friends might talk and laugh a lot more and lose track of responsibility in the workplace. If everyone is friends on a personal level, the entire atmosphere may relax a lot more. This can be great for the team (who wouldn’t want to be surrounded by friends all day!), but it can appear somewhat unprofessional to clients. 

5. Lack of productivity.

When there are friends in the workplace, there’s an opportunity for extra chatting, gossiping, and playing the fool. This means that time spent on tomfoolery can rob the business of its overall productivity. Being friends with your co-workers could set you back, especially if you are trying to work your way up.

6. Risk of holding yourself back.

Being friends with a co-worker can make advancement in the workplace tricky. You might not want to outshine your friend or take all of the praise on a project, even if you did most of the work. Some people tend to put the needs and happiness of their friends ahead of their own, and this could hold you back in terms of job advancement. 

7. Emotional exhaustion.

There’s a bit of research out there that indicates that people who maintain real workplace friendships often tend to feel emotionally drained or exhausted. They feel almost as if they are on call at all times of the day, night, and weekends too. If you never get a break from “being a friend”, you might start to feel emotionally burnt out. 

8. Never able to switch off or escape work.

coworkers are enjoying drinks in a bar after work

Being friends with co-workers might be great at work, but it might not be so great when you leave work. Imagine having a rough day at work and heading out for a bite to eat and drink with your coworker-friend. Except, instead of talking about things to take your mind off the issues at work, all you can do is talk about work because you are both actively involved in the situation. 

If you make friends with co-workers and spend time with them outside of work hours, you might find that you can never truly escape work and get your mind off it.

9. Risk of being called out on favoritism.

If you’re very friendly with one person at work, other employees might think that you are favoring one person. If you do advance in the workplace and work your way up the ranks, other employees may start resenting your closeness with your coworker-friend. 

10. Could lead to unethical behavior. 

Making friends in the workplace puts you in a precarious position when it comes to right and wrong. Perhaps your friend does something wrong in the workplace – something that should be reported. You will have to face the struggle of how to handle the situation. You might find yourself behaving unethically in the end, against your better judgment. 

11. Risk of earning jealousy.

When you make friends with a co-worker, you might start to spend more time with him/her socially. It could lead to a conversation about the new furniture you are buying or the cost of a house you are buying or interested in renting. This, the mere understanding of affordability, can lead to earning jealousy. You might be earning more than some of your colleagues, and this can lead to an awkward situation in the workplace when a spotlight is shone on it. 

12. Being judged by association.

You know the saying, “you are the company you keep”? Well, it rings true in the workplace. If you are unwittingly spending time with and appearing cliquey with someone who isn’t seen in high regard in the business, you might be bypassed for the type of responsibility or promotion you are interested in. It might be assumed that you are the company you keep, and you might be judged by association – which, of course, is bad for your career.

13. Getting stuck in a negative cycle.

What happens if you make friends with a co-worker who is always complaining or moaning about work? It might seem healthy to complain a bit too, to get frustrations off your chest, but then you might find yourself stuck in a negative cycle of complaining or hearing complaints. This can lead to workplace dissatisfaction at a bit of depression too. 

14. Blurred lines. 

It can be hard to separate work and social life if you have the same friends at work as you do in your personal life. It’s hard not to take things too personally. If you have a fall out with your friend, it will be quite hard not to carry those hard feelings into the office with you on Monday morning. This can cause discomfort at work and lead to overall poor work performance. 

15. Risk of wasted time, effort, and emotional investment. 

Real friendships take time and effort. They don’t happen overnight, and they require both parties to actively commit to the friendship. Unfortunately, the current work culture is to always be looking for something better. If you make friends with someone at work, they could soon move on to another job opportunity, which will leave you back at square one. Making work friends could just be a big waste of precious time and effort that you could be spending on work. 

businessman sitting alone at his desk

16. What you say could (and might) be used against you.

Making friends in the workplace is usually done with good intentions, but there is always the opportunity that your new friend may decide to no longer be friends with you. Remember all those long nights over beer/wine where you moaned and told inappropriate jokes about your boss and fellow colleagues? Those stories could come out! Remember the day you broke down and told your friend about messing up at work and covering it up? That could all come out and put your career at risk. 

To conclude

A new job, or promotion to a new department, can seem like a great opportunity to make new friends, but it’s something that comes with considerable risk attached. If you decide not to make friends in the workplace because the above disadvantages and downsides are too much for you, you can still be friendly and approachable. After all, there is a difference between being a friend and being friendly. Good luck!

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This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who share their experiences and knowledge about the "Seven F's of Life".

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

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.