What to Do When You’re There to Work, Not Make Friends

It’s All About Boundaries

It might be tempting to hang out at the water cooler half the morning and indulge in the latest gossip, the fun anticipation of the office lottery pool, or friendly sports bets. But these easy friendships with coworkers can begin to spill over into your personal life, and that’s when things get dicey.

Setting boundaries is a good idea, but where do you begin? Can you set boundaries without hurting someone’s feelings? Can you keep your work relationships healthy even while you decline invitations that infringe on your personal time?

It’s possible, and it’s probably easier than you think. These hard-and-fast rules can help you set boundaries that will keep you sane — and keep your job secure.

1. Structure Your Time

The busier you are at work, the more likely you will be to focus on what you should be doing.

Plan out an hourly schedule that keeps your projects on track and forces you to avoid procrastination. This will naturally lead to less time milling about with coworkers and fewer bits of juicy gossip to ponder. Stay focused.

2. Say No & Stay Firm

When someone asks you why you aren’t hanging out with them after work, stick to your guns.

Simply tell them your time away from work is reserved for family and friends. If they try to make you feel guilty, stand your ground. They might be snippy for a while, but ultimately they have no choice but to respect your decisions.

If they don’t and it becomes an issue that starts to affect your work environment and productivity, it might be something to take up with human resources.

3. Don’t Mix Work & Play

The invitation to that hot new restaurant on a Saturday night or the happy hour drink party can be tempting, but it may be best to decline if you’re trying to keep it professional.

These after-hours soirees can very quickly blur the lines between the personal and professional. Keep your work life separate by attending only the company-sanctioned (and expected) events, such as the annual Christmas party or awards dinner. While you don’t want to be branded as antisocial, do your best to explain to coworkers that you value your family and/or other outside commitments.

4. Set Strict Time Limits

When you leave the office, you’re done with work.

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