4 Rules for Workplace FriendshipsWant a longer life? Cozy up to people at work. (And just not the cute new assistant—danger zone!)
According to a recent study of 820 working adults -- most of them who were married with children -- people lacking social support at work were 2.4 times more likely to die in the next 20 years than their more-social counterparts.
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Even after accounting for heart disease, high cholesterol, and other issues, researchers found that social support on its own was related to death. Why? The study suggests a low level of social support at work can increase our body's stress response and lead to difficulties sleeping, and a hard time recovering from stressful situations. So here are some rules for making the best of your 9-6 buddies.
#1: Don't Take Advantage, and Don't Be Taken Advantage of
Don't get too comfortable with the fact that your work friend always gets you the information you need; thank him. Don't just listen to a stressed coworker, offer to help, says Bev Smallwood, Ph.D., author of This Wasn't Supposed to Happen to Me. According to recent research, random acts of kindness don't just boost others' moods -- they boosts yours too. (Check out our story on how to make it a part of your day.) Caution: Make sure they reciprocate -- is he appreciative of the hour you're spending proofing for him?
#2: Share with Caution
Think about this: How would you feel if the entire office knew you fudged that document just a little bit? While the workplace is a natural place to meet friends, work means work, and you never know when personal ties will go out the window, Smallwood says. Especially if you or your friend is in a supervisory role.
#3: Don't Discuss the Big Guy
Blowing off steam about your boss' nitpicky ways to the guy next to you? It can easily float right into a decision-maker's office, or be blurted out in conversation, says Smallwood. Instead of blasting your boss to a coworker, call your significant other on a break. She's not involved in a way that can come back to bite you where it hurts.
#4: . . . Or Other Coworkers
Jim finds a way to yank every conversation back to an orbit around himself. We know. And chances are, everyone else does too. Don't bash him behind closed doors -- it can destroy relationships, and mark you as someone who can't be trusted, says Smallwood. If you're curious -- it's usually the jerks who make more money. Why? Find out.
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