One of the features of the office away day or team building event is often a late night drinking session in a hotel. Many people view this as an essential part of the bonding process. However, these drinking sessions, and the free flowing discussions which typically accompany them, can in fact be very damaging.
We spend some of our best time at work; typically most of the daylight hours in five days of a seven day week. Our colleagues at work are often viewed as friends. However, these working friendships are quite different from out of work relationships. They are full of ambiguities and complications.
We usually choose to be friends with people we simply like, but those we work with are not always chosen by us. Team members are chosen by senior management and put together. The closeness of the working relationship may feel like a friendship, but it is different in many ways.
Working relationships are based on a need for each party to do something for the other. In order for this to be effective it is useful at least for an illusion of friendship to exist. Sociologists often report that work colleagues pretend to be friends when deep down they despise one another. In other cases there may be a level of competition, for example if there is a potential promotion.
The act of getting drunk and talking openly can be disastrous in these situations. Harm can be done to friendships outside of work, but even if the damage lasts it will not have the impact that such events will have among work colleagues.
‘Be careful who you choose to get drunk with’ is an excellent piece of advice. Some people are unable to discriminate; they simply get drunk at every opportunity and suffer the consequences in the aftermath.
Some work relationships are proper friendships. In order to understand your relationships simply ask yourself ‘if it were not for work, would I be friends with this person’. If the answer is yes, then fine. If the answer is no then understand the relationship for what it is.
If you have any doubts about the difference between a friendship and a work relationship think of an example of the latter in your past which bore all the hallmarks of a friendship. You worked together and spoke often not just about work but about more personal matters. You knew them and viewed them as a friend. Then one of you moved on, and you never spoke to them again.