It’s a bad idea to get too personal with your co-workers, for so many reasons.
Meeting with colleagues outside your cubicle farm for happy hour is no biggie, but letting the director of finance (or any fellow employee) into your personal life isn’t usually a good move.
Not convinced? This list of reasons why should quickly dispel any notions to the contrary:
1. Co-workers might air your dirty laundry
Look no further than “The 40 Year Old Virgin” to see the pitfalls of letting your colleagues into your personal affairs. After the main character, Andy (Steve Carell), reveals his lack of experience, his co-workers immediately invade his personal space about very private matters.
Throughout the movie, they inundate Andy with unsolicited advice about love and repeatedly embarrass him. His co-worker David (Paul Rudd) takes the cake when he stands outside Andy’s apartment and screams, “Andy, for the last time, I don’t want your giant box of pornography!” Although this probably won’t happen to you (thank goodness), mixing business contacts and social media networks can be a recipe for disaster.
Need a real-world example? Five employees at Hispanics United of Buffalo were fired the day after they made comments about a colleague on Facebook. They’ve been subsequently reinstated to their jobs after a court determined their comments to be protected speech, but all the involved parties endured significant turmoil as a result.
2. Colleagues may not be so much fun outside work
Initially, it can be tempting to get to know your colleagues better and mingle with them in social settings. But remember that just because you work with these people doesn’t mean you’ll mesh with them outside the office.
You might discover your neighbor a few cubes away is an out-of-control party animal on the weekends with unhealthy habits, and she wants you to join in on the fun—even if you don’t.
Or maybe Anna from three cubes down might decide you’re not cool enough to hang out with her. If either person feels this way, it will make future work situations awkward.
3. You (or your colleague) could become codependent
Regardless of what you do off the clock with your work friends, things have gone too far when codependency issues arise.
Imagine hanging out with your work BFF all weekend and then, when you get into the office on Monday, he starts calling you to ask for your help with reports you know nothing about, just so you two can be together.
Better yet, what if your co-worker becomes so needy that he starts asking you to call in sick with him? There’s no better way to peg the sketchy factor, especially if you get caught. (Even if you don’t, it’s still a creepy scenario.)
4. Everything becomes work-related
It might turn out you and your work bestie don’t have much in common except for work. Guess what you’ll be talking about almost all the time when you’re chilling out together?
Things could easily get to the point where you’re in da club with your best work friend talking about how you want go on a tropical vacation, and somehow the conversation transitions into last week’s meeting or how it’s so stupid that you have to print everything two-sided now. Good times.
Seriously, who wants to talk about work when they’re not at work or getting paid to work?
So do yourself a favor by keeping work at work—and find yourself another way to make friends.
Seth J. Carr is a freelance writer with more than a decade of professional corporate and non-profit writing experience. Connect with him on Twitter @sethjcarr. This article first appeared on Brazen Life, a career blog for young professionals.
This article first appeared on Ragan.com in Feb. 2014.