We all have to work for a living, except very few privileged people who have a fixed income, a passive income, or who can afford to retire young (or for heiresses, such as the Italians Elettra Lamborghini and Gianluca Vacchi). Working can be beautiful, or the most stressful experience of our life, and what makes the difference is mainly the work environment.

We can’t choose our colleagues, just like you can’t choose your parents. What you can choose is our way of relating with other people, also to understand who is our friend, who is the enemy and the behavior to be taken during working hours.

I have worked in different companies throughout my career, and I have had mixed experiences with various work colleagues, both peers and those who were younger or older than me. I can say that I have seen many types of workers: the workhorse, who works a lot, perhaps even too much, those who work smart, looking for the best solution to achieve maximum results with minimum effort, those who try to avoid responsibilities, and also the people who are working only for salary, or because they had nothing better to do at home.

How is it possible to relate to people in the workplace?

My experience has taught me one thing: not everyone is your friend in the workplace. Set limits, keep your distance, be professional, do your job respecting your contract, take the money, and go home. This is the system of work that I have been using for many years, and that has allowed me to avoid many problems. Those are your co-workers, friends are others, and I think it’s never wise to mix business and friendship. The results could be unpleasant and ruin both friendship and working relationship.

Here is an example of what I mean.

In my first job, I started on the same day as another guy, a year younger than me. Our work was similar and we kind of grew close, I even spent New Year’s Eve with him. As time passed by I opened up myself to him, shared not only my day to day routine but also my thoughts, fears, and secrets, since I felt that he is there for me. I guess it is a matter of human naivety thinking that this bond will outlast any obstacles that might come in your way.

So when it came time for a promotion, as it usually happens the choice was down between me or him and shortly thereafter things quickly became sour between us. On our usual coffee break, he started talking about the management of the company, on how things that weren’t working so well and asked for my opinion. I said that some executives made the wrong strategies and that some colleagues were disinterested in the good of the company.

I said those things trusting our confidence, not thinking at all that they could be used against me. However, my intimate and honest opinion quickly became public since he told everybody about it. From then on, my stay in the workplace was more difficult.

First, there was a strange tension not only with him but with my colleagues and my boss. Needless to say that he got the job and soon after I left because I could bear the notion that he used me and got away with it.

Now I have a new job and an older colleague with whom I share different passions, but I retain limits to what I share and I am at peace. I believe that not oversharing is key when it comes to relationships with coworkers. I found that for me it is better to keep a healthy distance. He is a colleague first then my friend, however, this does not stop me from spending nice moments with him during lunch breaks or talking about our passions during work.

What I said to my former colleague was used against me, so maybe it is better to choose what you share with coworkers, stick to general topics, do your job and get paid. That’s how to get by in any workplace.

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