Who in your workplace do you consider to be a friend?
When we say “friend,” we don’t mean someone who works on your floor that you see every morning for a few minutes before the craziness of your day starts. We’re also not talking about the team member you exchange a quick nod and smile with every day in passing. No, We’re referring to someone who would notice you weren’t there and be concerned if they saw your desk vacant one morning, or someone that you would immediately think to tell about something exciting happening in your personal life.
So again we ask: Do you have any genuine friends in the office?
Surrounded by people, yet all alone.
Today there are more women in the workplace than ever before. Outside of the office, women can be incredibly social creatures. Yet we have seen the opposite behavior once women are in the workplace. Men in the office may bond together, have lunches out as a group, and even do things together outside of office hours. The guys may not even think to include their female counterparts and team members. Or they might think it’s not appropriate, or even that the women wouldn’t be interested anyway.
Women, on the other hand, typically choose to eat our lunches alone quickly at our desks. Why is that the case? Well, we have seen it is because: 1) there are fewer women, 2) women are maximizing their time, and 3) we often put ourselves last.
1. Fewer women
In some industries there are simply fewer women, especially peers. In many of those cases, those few women may report to us, which could make it awkward for deeper personal relationships to develop. In other cases, the women may be reports of our male counterparts who may feel it is not politically correct to build authentic relationships inside the office. No matter why, we have seen how difficult it is to come together as women in the workplace, and the fewer the women, the more difficult.
2. Women max their time
After work, the situation doesn’t really change. Even if a work environment has a higher number of women, it doesn’t guarantee we just naturally come together in fellowship. We are often focused on getting our stuff done and getting home to our second job…running a home. While men might go out for after work get togethers, women head straight home…often to prepare dinner, help with homework, and play chauffeur. It seems we have fewer “open” hours than men so the notion of “hanging out” after work is a social luxury that most women can’t afford.
3. Put ourselves last
Another reason our workplace friends may be few and far between is that we simply don’t invest the time…not because we aren’t interested or aren’t excited about the potential. We just simply put ourselves and our needs last. We so value our relationships at home that we tear out of the office to get there. Working moms usually pick up their children after work and head home to that long list of “mom duties”. And don’t even get us started about the mommy guilt that pushes us to not even stop on the way home for a latte. GOTTA GET HOME! Even if there are no children at home, there are still domestic responsibilities, volunteer work, and maybe a spouse or significant other who needs us. So, we push our own need for workplace relationships to the side and focus on others.
Find your “club.”
So we can see, women may have a more difficult time reconciling spending our free time on social things. But that shouldn’t stop us from seeking out and forming friendships with other professional women.
This need for authentic relationships is why we are so passionate about 4word, which creates opportunities for professional Christian women to come together in ways that work with our busy lives. No professional woman should feel excluded from gatherings of other women just because she doesn’t have the “right” schedule or social situation.
Rather than continue to feel alienated in our workplace, we can determine to find a “club” for ourselves. 4word: Local Groups are a great place to start. With Groups meeting across the country at times and places that are respectful of professional women’s schedules, we have plenty of opportunities to find and connect with other women in situations similar to our own. Your new best friend might be waiting for you at your city’s next meeting, so get out there and give it a try!
If 4word: Local Groups are still not something our schedule permits, consider the 4word Mentor Program. This 10-week session is an invaluable time to interact with a mentor and the other mentees in a session, and it doesn’t require us to set aside much time in our day or week. All meetings are virtual; the mentor and mentee pairs decide the schedule. The end result is guidance of a mentor and the lifelong connection with a like-minded professional woman. If this sounds interesting, the deadline to apply for the upcoming winter session is January 9, 2015. Click here to begin the application now.
Take the initiative.
Once we decide to face our “workplace isolation” head on, we need to come up with a plan that will be easy to not only implement but also maintain. The easiest place to start a “friend search”: our office! It might seem obvious, but it’s our best bet at developing a lasting relationship. We’re guaranteed to spend time together and we automatically have things in common by being co-workers.
Take the initiative and seek out a co-worker to befriend. Don’t overcomplicate things. Maybe there’s someone we’ve always seen heading to the break room for lunch every day. Make a point of joining her during a lunch break. Ask if she’d like to sit together and see what happens.
With other co-workers, we might have to be a little more creative in inciting friendships. See if there are any common interests among our colleagues that we can use to develop a connection. Whether it’s a love of lunch time walking for health, shared alma maters, or love of chocolate, just find a reason to get a few women together and the rest usually happens naturally.
Another avenue for finding like-minded female friends is to seek out a professional association related to our careers or areas of expertise, like PRSA for public relations professionals, for example. Many of these associations have local chapters that hold regular events. Not only do we get a chance to stay up to date on what’s happening in our fields, but it’s also a chance to form lasting friendships with other women like us. Double win!
No matter where we have to go or what we have to do, we have to make a promise to ourselves to always be on the lookout for friendships like these. God didn’t create us to live in isolation. We are meant to be in community! So, let’s put ourselves first, make the effort, and blessings will abound. AND when we are being encouraged by these types of relationships, we are happier at home and at work.
We know that professional women can often feel lonely and isolated at work, especially without the support of friends. We choke down our lunches at our desks because there are not other women with whom we are close because they are few and far between and company cultures don’t always facilitate it anyway, because we are maximizing every minute in the office so we can juggle all of the facets of our lives, and because we just put ourselves last and don’t invest the time it takes to develop these relationships. We have both been there at one time or another!
It may be difficult to make female friends at your workplace, but we promise you the effort will be worth it. If you are intentional, creative, and vow to widen your professional circle, you will build relationships that will bless and enrich your workday and your entire life.
OK, so what’s your first step?!