Workplace Friendships

“I currently work at a University office, and just started a month ago. There are three girls here around my age, who are friends. I would like to start conversations with them, and I can tell they are nice because we all greet each other daily. I don’t know what to say, but I do see them surfing the same clothing websites I visit, so that could be a topic starter. Any advice?”

Ahh the difficulty of workplace friendships! It’s a delicate balancing act between being professionally hostile, casually friendly & super-intense, too-much-information, whoa-there-Nelly!

I think the best thing to do is make friends with one of the girls. Perhaps pick the one with the broadest smile. Come up with some ridiculous excuse to go over to her desk — borrow her stapler, or something. Be charming when you ask her, take it back to your desk, & then choose a time to return it when you can see she’s not busy. When you go back, strike up a conversation. Maybe you can use your “new” status as an opener. Ask her how long she’s been working there or what the deal is with the grumpy boss you share. This should break the ice & naturally flow into a conversation.

I can picture it going something like this:

You: Hey, thanks for the stapler.
New Friend: No problem!
You: Oh, my name’s Griselda by the way.
New Friend: Nice to meet you, finally! I’m Olga.
You: How long have you been working here?
New Friend: About a year, though it’s starting to drive me nuts. You just started, right? What were you doing before this?

Some people are not as open as this, & don’t volunteer information easily. In this case, it’s best to ask open-ended questions (questions that can’t be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’), but of course if the person you’re speaking to seems uncomfortable or like they’ve seen something terrifying up your nose, just cut the conversation short & leave them alone. There’s no sense dragging people into conversations they’d rather have no part of.

Anyway, assuming the girl you’ve picked to be your friend isn’t a social leper, things should progress well. Keep your conversations relatively short at first, but make an effort to engage with her & ask her questions about herself. (Everyone loves to talk about themselves, it’s their favourite topic!) Then maybe the next day or day after, you could ask her to go to lunch with you. You can do this sneakily if you like, perhaps by asking for her recommendations for the area, or just asking out-right. Then, once you’re out of the immediate work environment, you can have a conversation like two normal people. Talk about the food, the other customers, your lives & that kind of thing. You should also mention that her friends seem nice, & she will probably say, “Oh, I’ll introduce you!”. No sweat, kid.

I wouldn’t recommend immediately bringing up the fact that you’ve seen them surfing clothing websites. While it’s definitely a great thing to talk about & it’s awesome to know that you have common ground, you probably don’t want to open with it. People are usually a bit secretive & defensive about their work internet use, so maybe it would be better to drop it into conversation later, when you have them on side.

Who knew staplers could be so helpful?! Good luck, cutie!