Jo Knows: In the Workplace

Aaaaaand we’re back! Sorry for the brief hiatus – holidays, amirite? Hope you’re all enjoying a calm and relaxing December (ha!)

Dear Jo,

I am 25 and have been at my current job for almost two years. I enjoy what I do – the pay is decent and the position itself is a great opportunity for me. I also get along well with the people I work with, but it has become a little tense lately. I am younger than a lot of my colleagues and also newer to the company than they are. In spite of my age, (or maybe because of it) my boss has been turning to me more frequently for ideas and asking me to head projects that put me in a management role over some of the people I work with. I know this doesn’t sit well with my coworkers and I want to maintain my friendships, but at the same time I want to do my job well. How can I balance my workplace relationships while still advancing in my position?

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First of all, congratulations. You have found a great job that you love that pays you a living wage, so you are basically a rainbow unicorn. Many companies hire 20-somethings because we’re cheap, technology savvy, and come with a fresh perspective. The sad reality is that if employees can’t keep up with the times, they’re bound to get leap-frogged, or worse, fired…eep. If you are lucky enough to be in a job in your field that you enjoy, I would strongly advise you to avoid both those outcomes.

You are coming to the end of the honey-moon phase of a new job – “I got hired, yay! My job is super cool, yay! My coworkers and I go out for drinks every night and we’re going to be best buddies forever, YAY!” Some of this stuff lingers, but for many of us once the job settles into more of a routine, the euphoric bliss wears off and reality sets in. Your boss does this annoying thing with her gum; your coworker is constantly 20 minutes late; that stupid door won’t stop squeaking when it closes, etc. Unless you are one of a very blessed few, there are going to be parts of your job that are tricky and kind of suck.

It’s great to be friends with your coworkers, but in the immortal words of every reality show contestant ever, you’re not there to make friends. I am in no way suggesting that you Omarosa your coworkers, (‘The Apprentice’? Anyone?) but you may need to put some distance between you and your work friends if you want to continue to excel in this job. If you try to be both a buddy and a manager, you run the risk of disappointing your boss and pissing off your colleagues. Small changes can help you establish some boundaries – drinks after work every day may need to get cut down to drinks once in a while and trash-talking your boss around the water cooler should probably be avoided. Some of your work friendships may die out, but maybe a few coworkers will surprise you and be understanding. You will also open yourself up for new friendships as you continue to climb the ladder. In the meantime, focus on your buds outside the workplace and enjoy kicking ass at your awesome job.

Next time on Jo Knows: Holiday madness! Send in your holiday horrors and I will do my best to put a bow on them for you.

Jo Knows is an advice column where my dear friend, Joanna, tackles any and all of your questions every other week. Nothing is off the table (think: sex, depression, career, family, dating, etc), and all questions will be published anonymously. Email hi3chairs at gmail dot com.

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