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The Dos and Don’ts of Workplace Friendships in Asia

There are key principles to workplace friendships everyone must always keep in mind

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BY Jared Carl Millan - 17 Jul 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

The workplace can be a diverse pool of talent in which people from different walks of life merge, and it can be a wonderful place to form friendships and lasting bonds. But like most relationships, workplace friendships can be tricky.

On the one hand, you are there not to make friends but to lend your expertise to the company and help it meet its goals. On the other, there is an inherent need for human interaction with your colleagues, and sometimes it can be just as important as doing your job.

Asians, in particular, tend to be more open to friendships in the workplace as opposed to Westerners, so navigating such a relationship is imperative if you are to create a healthy working environment. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind.

1. Do become nice to everyone

Bedrock respect is key when it comes to relationships, whether familial, romantic, or professional. You may not get along with everyone in the office, but that doesn’t mean it’s an excuse to be rude and unkind. A little kindness goes a long way, especially in a place where people can either make or break you.

“I would advise treating people the same way in and outside the office, with openness and respect.” said Richard Hanson, CEO of Hong Kong start-up Jobable. “As long as outside friendships are left at the office door, then I think it's possible to have really positive relationships with everybody in the workplace.”

2. Don’t show all your cards

At least not in the beginning. Friendships in the workplace take time to build and should never be rushed or forced. Maintain a professional front at all times. Avoid sharing intimate details about your personal life from the get go. Don’t reveal your life story to those you have just met; make sure you establish mutual trust first.

3. Do find your tribe

For starters, find people who are on the same wavelength as you, those who share the same interests, sense of humor, and work ethic. These people will lift you up in times of trouble and inspire you to be the best version of yourself.

“Finding your tribe is necessary,” says Sandy Tiu, senior product manager for L'Oréal Philippines. “It builds the environment and your output toward work. More than that, it can boost your morale and overall happiness in the office.”

4. Don’t be negative

No one wants to be around a person who walks around with a cloud of gloom and unhappiness trialing him. Complaining about work has its place in the workplace. In fact, venting your frustrations every so often does wonders for your mental health, stress levels, and even productivity. But you have to remember that constant whining is unattractive; it can repulse even the kindest, most well-meaning person in the office.

5. Do expand your horizons

Once you’ve developed a tight-knit clique in the workplace, it is tempting to want to spend all your free time fraternizing with that same group. Although there’s nothing wrong with this, do make an effort to spend some time with other people in the office. Remember, it always pays to build your network.

6. Don’t take things personally

This is especially tricky because criticism of one’s work may come across as a personal attack to some. Try as much as possible to view these comments with adult glasses on; take them into consideration and find a way to learn from them. Further, don’t be afraid to speak up should you have feedback that may be useful to improve a colleague’s output, as discussed in this Inc. Southeast Asia article.

“Don’t hide your opinions,” says Max Armbruster, founder and CEO of TalkPush. “[Because] staying politically correct will end up isolating you.”

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