The Ps & Qs Of Work & Play
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Business or Pleasure?1 of 10
By Natasha Burton
The boundaries between your work life and your personal one can often blur, especially when your office environment is a social one. Because of this, we talked to business etiquette expert and psychotherapist Mark Sichel about how to handle some of the most common social situations that can arise at work.
Friendship2 of 10
Given that most of us spend more time with our co-workers than our friends, making pals at the office is a must. "There's rarely a problem I've heard about non-romantic friendships that's become a major issue or affected anyone's job," says Sichel. "Most people make and keep work friends to varying degrees, but it's the main outlet for many people to meet new friends."
Gossip3 of 10
When you're friends with your co-workers, it can be tempting to dish with them as you would your out-of-work pals. Still, if you encounter gossip, Sichel says stay out of it. "[Make] a statement like: 'I'm not comfortable with this information and in the future, please don't share what you hear about other people's private lives.'" Sounds harsh, but it will allow you to talk about more meaningful things with your work friends.
Cliques4 of 10
High school's over, but those mean girls can grow up into office snobs. If you notice groups forming at work — and you are decidedly on the outside, "the best policy is to be civil and cordial to the people who are part of a clique and to focus on work-related matters rather than the emotional stress of trying to infiltrate," Sichel advises.
Happy Hour5 of 10
"Alcohol causes people to have lapses in judgment," Sichel says. So, if you head out for drinks with people from work, don't treat the occasion as you would a normal night out with your pals. "Each of us knows our limits when it comes to how much we can drink without saying something we'll regret. Caution and discretion are good policies whether a happy hour is sanctioned by the office or is in an informal setting."
Gift-Giving6 of 10
This one's tricky. "Follow the lead of others and find out the customary office policy toward giving gifts. When someone goes out of their way for you or you've developed an out-of-office friendship, a gift is often appropriate," Sichel says. But be sure that a gift, instead of a thank you note, is the appropriate gesture for the person and occasion in question. "People should avoid putting others in the position where they'll be embarrassed at not having given a gift."
Weddings7 of 10
You're trying to narrow down your guests, but can you cut your boss from the list? "Each person's wedding is different, [but these] occasions can cause all kinds of misinterpretations. It's inappropriate to invite someone you're not close with — this can often make people feel they're being invited just so they'll give a gift," Sichel says. Just like other office customs, "it's probably a good idea to find out what others have done in this situation and follow suit."
Flirting8 of 10
When you're spending days with the same group of people, attractions are inevitable. But what if you're getting hit-on by a co-worker and you're not interested? You can tell this person, "It's my policy to keep work and personal relationships separate," says Sichel. "There's also the possibility of saying 'I have a serious relationship with someone,' or 'I have a boyfriend or girlfriend or spouse, so I think it's best if we keep our relationship strictly work-related.'"
Dating9 of 10
But if you do reciprocate the feelings and want to date someone at work, tread carefully. "Office relationships are more often a recipe for disaster. It readily becomes uncomfortable for those in the relationship as well as for co-workers and can possibly negatively affect a person's job security or desires for advancement," Sichel warns.
Relationships10 of 10
"On the other hand, if you really feel you've met someone you can't walk away from, discretion should be your guide and public displays of affection should at all costs be avoided," Sichel says. And, of course, "getting involved with someone who's married is always a bad idea and should be avoided — [it's] dangerously self-destructive."