How Your Work Spouse Could Be Helping and Hurting You

The good, bad, and ugly of having an office bestie.

Two young professionals engage in conversation
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Both Johnsons offer pointers to ensure that those who have a work spouse keep their relationship fruitful and not toxic:

Set boundaries. "That personal connection you have, which is so important, can be draining if you don't set personal and professional boundaries," says Meagan, a professional speaker and generational humorist. "Let's say some emotional issue comes up in the middle of the morning, and your friend wants to talk about it. It might not behoove you professionally to listen to that problem now. You could say, 'I can't talk about it now, but I can talk to you at 2 p.m. uninterrupted.'"

If you had a preexisting relationship before becoming colleagues, Larry suggests establishing those boundaries before the first day in the office. "In a previous job, I worked with my best friend. She and her husband and me and my wife played bridge together every week, and I hired her with some trepidation," he recalls. "We discussed how we could work together and what rules to set so we didn't mess up our friendship, and also so that we would be careful not to show favoritism. It's good to have that conversation early on."

[See How to Realistically Achieve Work-Life Balance.]

Remain professional in the office. Be careful about being too chummy in meetings and at work events, and avoid spending too much time together in the office. You particularly have to toe the line if one of you is a manager. "It's great to jive well with a colleague, even when you're in management," Larry says. "But you have to be careful as well. Both of you have to respect your role as a manager. For example, you can't go to lunch together every day."

Also be conscientious and consistent with your communication style. "Sometimes you have to ask yourself: 'If they were just any other colleague or employee, would I have spoke to them that way?'" Larry adds.