Here are 10 tips to help you enjoy spending time with your friends at work while still being efficient at your job:
1. Keep your business and personal lives separate. If you had a wild time with your workplace pal last night, there's no need to blab about it for all the office to hear. Keep your personal chat reserved for your breaks and after work. You want your other co-workers to still take you seriously as a professional, and getting too chummy on the job might get in the way.
2. Take your time. If you're just beginning to bond with a co-worker outside of the office, go slow. You never know if this will blossom into a long and trusting friendship, or if you'll go back to all business. So you don't want to embarrass yourself (i.e., going overboard on Tequila Tuesdays) or reveal too much about your personal life (maybe you're thinking about a career change) and have it come back to bite you. Slowly let the other person into your life, with an increasing amount of trust.
3. Remember why you're there. You go to the office each day to get a job done, not take a break with your buddy every 10 minutes to gossip. Don't let your friendship derail you from being a good worker or your boss might start to notice.
4. Don't be exclusive. Realize that if you're buddying up with a co-worker, others might feel left out. Be sure to include others in your lunch dates and conversations to avoid jealous feelings.
5. Don't complain about your boss. It's almost a natural instinct to complain about work to a friend, but realize that a workplace friend makes that a treacherous path to travel. If he or she is friends with or connected to your boss, your venting may cause problems for you in your department.
6. Maintain some space. Life happens. Friendships fail sometimes. If that happens, your work situation may become more stressful, so be aware of how close you're getting to a co-worker and try to put a little distance between the two of you. Socialize with friends outside of work to balance out the time you spend with your work friends.
7. Handle friend breakups professionally. Should you have a falling out with your pal, don't let it affect your quality of work or your other professional relationships. Hostility between two team members can affect the entire team, so keep any ill feelings to yourself and don't take them out on your co-workers.
8. Use the friendship to your benefit. Sometimes having a friend on your work team can inspire and motivate you to new levels of creativity. If you work together well, reap the benefits on the job. If you can demonstrate better success in working together, you will have a better chance of convincing your boss to let you work together on future projects.
9. Don't be taken advantage of. While it's more likely that co-workers will start spending more time with you because of your natural wit and charm, be wary if they start asking you to take on some of their work. More devious types may simply be the equivalent of that kid who, during group projects, unloaded all the work on you and walked away with an "A" on the project. You're mature now, so don't let that happen ... again.
10. Enjoy yourself. Sharing an interest in similar work and experiences at the same company can make for great bonding opportunities. Friends make us happy and being happy at work makes for productive workers. Just be aware of how your friendship may affect those you work with, and keep it professional in the office.
Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs.com, a niche job board for public relations, communications, and social media jobs. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.