Why Can’t We Be Friends at Work?

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
Seattle Municipal Archives ladies square

Recently, I was out to lunch with a former colleague I’ll call Kate. We had worked hand and glove for almost a decade. I knew everything about her children. She knew everything about mine. We had worked under unreasonable deadlines together, weathered office politics, and even tried to solve the world’s problems over a glass of wine. During my first years as an associate at the firm, I probably spent more time with Kate than my own family. Yet I was still surprised when she introduced me to her friend who happened to be dining in the same restaurant:

“This is Susan. Susan is one of my best friends.”

I smiled warmly, trying to feign surprise. I had never considered Kate a friend, let alone a best friend. We had never socialized together outside of work. Our spouses had only met at work-related functions. Our children had never met. We ran in different social circles. We had different hobbies. We held different views on religion and politics. In many ways, we had very little in common outside of our professional lives.

Yet Kate knows me as well as anyone She knows my response under pressure. She knows my strengths and weaknesses. She knows what makes me crazy and what gets under my skin. She even knows how I act when I think no one is looking, and I can say the same of her.

But for reasons I don’t completely understand, I feel the need to draw an artificial line between my “work” friends and my “home” friends. We may all be friends on Facebook, but that’s the extent of the integration. Relationships at work stay at work. Relationships at home stay at home. Why risk mixing two worlds when things could get messy?

My efforts to compartmentalize my work into a completely separately category of life often lead me to act as if I live in two completely different worlds. My “work” relationships are professional, and I’m careful not to cross the line into my personal life, let alone let spirituality enter the picture.

At home, the opposite is true. I hide my lawyer cape when I’m hanging out at the grade school fundraiser or the soccer game. I’m a pretty good chameleon. Just this week, my daughter’s soccer coach sent me one of those “I didn’t’ realize you were a lawyer” emails. I felt pretty naked.

The Apostle Paul challenges my notion about friends and work. When Paul meets two of his best friends, Priscilla and Aquila, they are in Corinth working as tentmakers. He seeks them out and joins their work. Paul doesn’t back off of his friendship with Priscilla and Aquila due to their “business” relationship. Instead, he stays with them and works. Working side by side with Priscilla and Aquila for a year and a half in Corinth, Paul develops a deep trust and lasting bond.

Priscilla and Aquila, a husband and wife team, take Paul into their business and likely into their home. There are no artificial lines between home and work. During those early months in Corinth, Paul undoubtedly gets to know them. He sees their habits, values, and character. He gets a first-hand glimpse of their strengths and weaknesses. He learns what makes them tick. After working with them in the trenches, he knows he can trust them. No wonder he takes Pricilla and Aquila on a road trip through Syria. No wonder he supports their leadership in the churches in Ephesus and Rome.Together, they impact and grow the early church in multiple cities.

The more I think about it, the more I know Kate was right. Perhaps I should consider her a friend.

Maybe even a best friend.

Post by Susan DiMickele.

Image by Seattle Municipal Archives. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr.