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“We need to talk about our relationship.”

That sentence sends shivers down some spines, especially if it’s your significant other making the proposition. In the workplace, some people will respond with a hug and say, “Great! Let’s get to know each other better and talk about any conflicts we might be feeling!” Others will moan, “No way! Let’s just get the job done and maybe we’ll have time to talk about politics over a beer when we’re done.”

Relationships are a tricky thing at work. Consider this: your coworkers are not your friends. They are your associates, a group of people who make acquaintance to accomplish a common goal or task. Friends are a matter of choice. Associates are a matter of productivity and proximity. You will love your friends, but you may not even like your associates. And that’s OK, so long as you don’t lose track of the purpose. The work is the purpose—the accomplishment of a common goal.

If you become soulmates in the process, great. But you can be in a healthy relationship without sharing personal information and being best buddies. A healthy association does not mean you celebrate each other’s birthdays. It does mean you celebrate each other’s professional accomplishments. Recognizing the difference between “associates” and “friends” eliminates hurt feelings and enhances healthy environments. It’s not personal. It’s business.

What type of relationships are inside your business?

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