Daytime Roommates

Anyone who has ever had a roommate (even a best friend or spouse) knows that it’s an art to learn how to live in harmony day-in and day-out with another person. But what about the people we spend 9+ waking hours with each day?  Aren’t our office-mates just our daytime roommates? We drink coffee together, eat meals together, travel together, commiserate together and celebrate together. We even share personal stories and career goals. But, let’s face it. The workplace is full of many different personalities and characters. With all of that togetherness, it’s inevitable that your once-favorite teammate’s tiny quirks may become amplified and difficult to “live with” over time.

A few years ago I was interviewed for a role with a major Chicago company.  It was my second round of interviews, and I was meeting with a senior member of the team –a 15 year veteran of the company. The recruiter that I am, I pulled out one of my favorite questions to ask interviewees who’ve been with a company for so long: “So, what keeps YOU here?”  Her answer still resonates with me today.

“My friends are here,” she said. “Every morning, I come into the office and I call Lori* (who sits two offices down), and we catch up for about an hour. Then, I make sure to also ring Julie* for a few minutes (across the hall). She just got married, you know!”

At first, I wasn’t sure how to feel about her answer.  I was expecting her to tell me about her exceptional career growth, favorite mentors, the company’s excellent resources and benefits, and her promotions and achievements along the way. But, instead, she told me that the one thing that kept her coming back day after day was the community of friends she had at the office.

We spend so much time at work these days, it’s almost impossible to not cultivate close friendships with co-workers. In fact, many companies survey employees to find out if they like their colleagues as a way to get a pulse on morale and corporate culture. But what happens when tensions are high, personalities clash or work styles don’t mesh?  At the end of the day, each employee is responsible to get his/her job done. In today’s economy, where job security is low and the unemployment rate is high, employee performance is being scrutinized like never before. Stress is high everywhere, often affecting everything from patience levels to moods at the office.  When the pressure is on, you might find that you or your office roommies may not be as patient, understanding or easy-breezy as you’d all like to be.

It’s true, company culture is a huge factor in why employees want to come to work each day. But, spending so many hours with co-workers within an office space each day can truly be a balancing act. One day you might be enjoying happy hour together, but another day you might feel like you’re completely unable to sit next to each other. Just remember to try not to take things too personally. You were all hired to work together for a reason, and all of your quality time together may very well result in some big successes!

*Names changed for confidentiality

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