How To Enjoy Your Time With Your Coworkers - Even If You're Not Friends With Them

Life is full of complicated relationships, and the role of coworkers in your life is certainly no exception. Finding a way to enjoy your work days and perform side by side with people you wouldn't choose to share a space with under normal circumstances can be one of the most challenging concepts you'll face in the context of your career. When a person is not a friend but also more than an acquaintance, lines can become crossed and boundaries can end up blurred.


There are ways to acknowledge and appreciate the unique relationships coworkers offer without resorting to forcing a friendship where one doesn't necessarily feel natural. We've spelled out exactly how you can foster the type of environment that feels safe, enjoyable, and trustworthy to you and your coworkers alike, while still enforcing your boundaries and building up your confidence at work. Here are the steps you can take to get started. 

Adjust your expectations

The human brain has a tendency to default to black and white categorization, and this tendency can make it difficult to grasp the nature of a relationship that is less than friendship but more than acquaintanceship. As a result, you might find yourself struggling to find a balance. As soon as you have a few positive interactions with a coworker, you may find yourself getting your hopes up and expecting to be treated like a friend. Then, every reminder that the two of you aren't actually friends feels like a disappointment.


It's important to define and adjust your expectations for work interactions before you decide to work on your rapport with your coworkers. When you know exactly what it is that you expect and need from a working relationship in order to enjoy your time together, you can prevent yourself from feeling disappointed or slighted and reacting in a way that's more emotionally influenced than you'd like. 

Find a common goal

You can almost always count on having two things in common with your coworkers: you're both navigating the same career path, and you're working for the same company. Regardless of the fact that you might not live similar lives or share the same beliefs on a personal level, your livelihoods both depend on the success of the company you work for. This can help to create a dynamic where you both share the ultimate goal of ensuring the wellbeing of the operation.


Working together toward a common goal — whether that means pairing up on a project or just dedicating yourselves to bettering the company as a whole — can help to foster a unique bond between you and your coworkers that differs from the one that exists between friends. It allows you to set aside personal views and histories and enjoy connecting on the level of two people who are making a living in the same manner. 

Encourage healthy boundaries

Even if you have assessed your expectations for a working relationship, your coworkers may not have. You might find that they struggle to understand exactly where the line that separates friendship from a professional relationship lies. If you do find that connecting with your coworkers elicits expectations from them that align more with that of a personal friendship, don't be afraid to speak with them about what it might look like for both of you to set some healthy boundaries.


If you aren't comfortable sharing information about your personal life at work, kindly, calmly, and directly let your coworkers know. This might include discussing your relationship or marriage, sharing photos of your children, or discussing your personal beliefs. Encourage your coworkers to set their own boundaries as well, and express that you will be happy to respect others' boundaries the same way you expect your own to be respected in the workplace. 

Build mutual trust

Whether you consider your coworkers friends or not, successfully working with one another requires a certain level of mutual trust. Many Americans spend more waking hours at work than they do at home. Spending that many hours with people you feel you can't trust can take a devastating toll on your stress levels and your general mental wellbeing. You and the coworkers you work closest with should be able to consider one another trustworthy teammates who can go to each other for professional help and support.


You can inspire your coworkers to trust you by showing up when they need you. Offer to help when you see them struggling or volunteer to take on a few of their tasks if they aren't feeling well. When you have a down day, call on them to do the same. If a coworker privately reveals information to you, keep that revelation to yourself, rather than spreading it around as office gossip. Over time, these small acts from both sides will build a working relationship based on mutual trust and respect that makes your entire workplace a more enjoyable place to be.