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Is Your BFF at Work Killing Your Career?

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Laverne and Shirley. Grace and Karen. Rizzoli and Isles. These television characters make it look so easy—not to mention fun—to work with your best friend. All you do is gossip and make jokes, and then, if there’s any time left, you do some work.

But that’s television. Is having a best friend at work in real life that much fun? And is it good for your career?

There are a few schools of thought on the best-friend-at-work conundrum. According to research by Tom Rath, author of Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without, people who have a best friend at work are seven times more likely to be engaged in their work. Gallup research shows that close friendships at work boost employee satisfaction by almost 50 percent. A friend at work can be a source of inspiration, can help you keep up morale, and, of course, gossip with you in the bathroom.

But what about when your BFF gets promoted and you don’t? You could very quickly go from Lauren and Whitney to Lauren and Heidi on The Hills. Support can turn to resentment fast. And what if you told that person some very personal things about yourself? It could come back to haunt you in a major way.

And then what about just plain distraction? We know some of our friends are so distracting and entertaining we can’t even keep a straight face around them. Luckily their jobs are in entertainment, but imagine if Amy Poehler and Tina Fey tried to work in an office together. Michael Jalbert, president of MRINetwork, a search and recruitment organization, told USAToday that “co-workers who spend a lot of time socializing aren’t doing work. Problems may develop if one friend is promoted. Many companies try to create a family-like support at work, but it can interfere. It’s really a huge danger. Many people who are friends also find it hard to give unbiased criticism. Supervisors who become friends with subordinates can create jealousy and a sense of unfairness at the office.”

And just like you might lie for your best friend outside the office to protect her, you may feel inclined to try to cover up your BFF’s mistakes at work, which hurts the company overall and could possibly hurt you too. Nearly one third of U.S. workers have witnessed co-workers engage in unethical conduct, according to a survey on workplace ethics by Hudson.

But then again, having a friend at work can make your job more enjoyable. People with three close friends at work were 46 percent more likely to be extremely satisfied with their jobs and 88 percent more likely to be satisfied with their lives, according to research in Vital Friends.

A grueling job is a little easier when you have a good friend around, but at what cost?

Do you think having a best friend at work is an asset or a problem? Tell us in the comments!

Photo: Thinkstock

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