Your mother may have told you to maintain a professional distance between your work and personal lives. (Yes, that’s much easier said than done when you’re with colleagues for eight hours or more each day.) So I’m going by the rule of the cool mom from Mean Girls: “If you’re going to do it, I’d rather you do it in the house.”

Here are the house rules for making friends at work.

Choose Friends With Different Chiefs.

To ensure there is no possible conflict of interest, it’s best to build relationships with those outside your manager’s sphere. For even greater safety, choose someone from a different department or team altogether. This way you can guarantee that promotions and other opportunities will be considered without bias. “Limit post-work activities with coworkers,” said personal branding expert Talaya Waller. “This one is easy for me because, after 9-10 hours on a daily basis, most people are looking forward to spending time with family and friends.”

Don’t pass up an opportunity to mingle with your co-workers at happy hour! Make the most of it while still being mindful of time – limit yourself to a couple of hours and try not to be one of the last ones there. If you want an all-night out, save that for nights spent with non-work friends instead.

Look (at Titles) Before You Leap

John Haynes, HR Executive, and Executive Coach, in the DC Metro area, says, “Don’t overlook the importance of perception when co-workers and colleagues at different levels try to establish a friendship.” Being at a managerial level, even just managing interns, and having a friend in the company several levels down can often lead people to believe that you are giving them preferential treatment. Of course, this may not be accurate – but it is something to bear in mind! Haynes says, “the perception can be worse and damaging to the organization, customer relationships, and your personal brand.”

When it comes to forming close connections with co-workers, shared interests and passions are key. Whether you’re both fans of Bravo TV or diehard Soul Cycle devotees–or even have a mutual love for lobster tacos (yes, I said lobsters tacos!) –these details can be the foundation on which trust is built and lifelong friendships grow. My own experience has proven that true: From Dallas to NYC, my colleagues now also serve as best friends after bonding over similar tastes in media and cuisine! We were even at each other’s weddings – all thanks to some delicious lobster tacos!

Friend and Follow (on Social Media) Responsibly

The owner and operator of Grace Lanuza Consulting, Grace Lanuza, has a great guide for deciding how connected you should be with colleagues on social media. Her tips can help business professionals make the best choices when it comes to interacting virtually. In an article published by Talent Formula, she shares her insights about personal relationships in the corporate space.

For Facebook, consider this as “the bbq” of your online life. So you have to be comfortable to have the people on here over at your house for a bbq. Twitter is the “cocktail party” of social media. On this list, you must be comfortable having a conversation with these people at a cocktail party.

LinkedIn is the “work networking event or meeting” equivalent. The people on this list are the professional part of your personal brand. Ensure the updates on here are only work-related and not tied to your Facebook or personal Twitter.

As for Instagram, I’m still on the fence with this one. Personally, mine is open and linked to my Twitter and Facebook, so when I post I certainly keep those filters in mind.

If you’re afraid you’ll forget that filter when posting to Instagram, it’s best to unlink it with other social networks or make your Instagram account private altogether.

The crux of this is to not be scared to make acquaintances at the workplace, and recall that similar to other relationships, both good times and bad will happen. If matters turn out poorly, the key is being able to recover quickly while managing those connections with the same maturity you would use in a relationship outside work.

Photo: Thinkstock

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