CAN YOU HAVE FRIENDS AT WORK?
(P1) “The people you work with are people you were just THROWN TOGETHER WITH,” observed Martin Freeman’s character in The Office more than a decade ago. “You spend more time with them than your friends and family, but probably all you’ve got in common is the fact that you walk around on the same bit of carpet for eight hours a day.”
(P2) That ASSESSMENT may be even more accurate today: according to the psychologist Adam Grant, fewer and fewer of us have any close friends at work. It’s worst in America where, between the 1980s and 2000s, the PROPORTION of people who said they had a good work friend slid from half to less than a third. But the situation’s hardly wonderful in Britain, where 42% of us don’t. It’s easy to guess why. Once, we had jobs for life, which meant COLLEAGUES for life, plus company events for the family. Now, writes Grant, “work is a more TRANSACTIONAL place. We go to the office to be EFFICIENT, not to form BONDS.”
(P4) This might not matter if we were also spending fewer hours at work, with time to FORGE friendships outside, but the opposite’s true, of course, which means the WORST OF BOTH WORLDS: more work, with less social NOURISHMENT to show for it. And friendships SOWN in office soil were FRAGILE SHOOTS to begin with, as Mark Vernon explains in his lovely book, The Meaning of Friendship, because the logic of the workplace is opposed to that of making friends. Work is about getting things done, so your value’s INEVITABLY linked to what you contribute. A close friendship, by contrast, is valuable precisely because it’s not transactional, in any measurable way. It’s a commitment to be there REGARDLESS. This tension leads to AWKWARDNESS, as when an office friend’s SHODDY work makes your work harder, or when he or she is suddenly your boss.
(P5) Assuming you can’t – or don’t want to – just quit office culture altogether, it’s worth resisting the urge to isolate yourself socially there. All the research suggests that more work friendships means better health and a sense of fulfilment. True, this means staying open to interaction with annoying people. Yet even FRACTIOUS social connections are connections. Sure, we’re all TREADING the same bit of carpet for eight hours a day, but even that’s preferable to each treading our own, alone.
If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.
- Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
- Is your workplace pretty social, or is it NO-NONSENSE and all work?
- Do your co-workers tend to socialize together after work? Is the “HAPPY HOUR” after work a tradition in your country?
- Have you kept any friends from a workplace after you moved to a new job?
- Do you feel that you have many good friends, or only a few?
EXPRESSIONS TO PRACTICE:
What do the following expressions mean? Practice using each expression in a sentence; extra points if you can use it in conversation.
- Thrown together with
- Best / worst of both worlds
- Happy hour