Work friends can increase job satisfaction and productivity, making you less likely to quit. However, work friends can have distinct downsides, as well. Too much emotional involvement can severely handicap your ability to do your job. Consequently, setting psychological boundaries is extremely important and need to be established in a way that doesn’t hurt your coworker’s feelings.
Increasingly, emotional intelligence is being recognized as critical to professional success. Empathy is a large component of this, helping you connect meaningfully with other to forge beneficial relationships. However, sometimes these emotional connections get the best of us, and we can get so involved in our work friends that our professional energy and productivity suffers. If you feel like your work friends are dragging you down on the job, here are some steps to deal with emotionally draining work friends.
1. Identify the Signs of Emotionally Draining Work Friends
If you are consistently neglecting your work to help a work friend, it’s a clear sign that you may need to make some changes. Also, if you’re feeling like you’re investing more in your friend’s life than your own or like it’s a nonstop emotional rollercoaster, these could also be signs that your relationship is unhealthy. Unfortunately, there’s no clear line in the sand. However, if you answer “no” to any of these questions, then it may be time to consider some changes:
- Is this friendship helping me grow professionally?
- Are we putting forth the same effort?
- Am I comfortable expressing feelings and thoughts that are different than my friend’s?
- Am I objective regarding this person’s issues?
2. Don’t Play the Blame Game
If you find that your relationship with one of your work friends is detrimental to you, it’s normal to have an emotional reaction and blame the other person. However, at the end of the day, the only person’s behavior you can actually change is your own. Consequently, it is far more empowering to focus on your role in the unhealthy dynamic. Try reflecting on what initially drew you to the friendship. This can help you sort out your current relationship and help you to avoid making the same mistakes in the future.
3. Change the Narrative
It’s hard to tell friends, even work friends, that you need to spend less time with them. In rare instances, you can be direct. However, generally, you’re going to need to gradually shift the way you interact with this person. Replace physical time together with phone calls and then shift toward emails. Creating physical space will tone down the intensity of the relationship. Also, try to keep conversations about work.
4. Limit the Scope of Your Interactions with Work Friends
Establish some boundaries by identifying a limited scope of areas you are willing to address with colleagues in your interactions. Then, help people take action in other areas by connecting them with someone who can help them further.
5. Stick to Your Guns
It’s going to take time to adjust to a new equilibrium, and your work friend might not willingly go along with your new boundaries. However, it’s imperative to not jump back in just because your friend is pushing you. If work friends are making it more difficult, keep in mind that the unpleasantness will be short-term and far less costly than the long-term emotional toll of not sticking to some boundaries.
6. Stay Focused on the Bottom Line
- Look for signs that work friends are draining you emotionally and hurting your work performance.
- Focus on your role in the unhealthy dynamic.
- Gradually shift interactions so that you are communicating less with them.
- Help them connect with another resource to help with their problems.
- Play the blame game.
- Cut off all communication. It’s impossible and unpleasant which means the changes will not stick.
- Let them pull you back in.
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