It's something we all struggle with, but also something nobody likes to admit. How exactly do we make new friends at work? Without the pretense of similar schedules, lunch breaks, or after-work activities to bring people together, it can be really hard to find the common ground necessary to spark and build friendships on the job.
In a New York Times article, Wharton professor Adam Grant reported that in 1985, about 50 percent of American workers said they had a close friend at work. By 2004, this figure had dropped to just 30 percent.
However, the relationships we build with coworkers are particularly important for the happiness we feel at work. A study led by Christine Riordan at the University of Kentucky found that jub satisfaction and organizational effectiveness are both increased when workers have the opportunity for friendship.
Here are 5 simple ways to break through the barriers that get in the way of sparking new friendships at work.
1. Speak to everyone
I've often found that the best conversations take place with those I know the least. Speak to the guy who works in the warehouse, or the person in accounting who you've never spoken to. Ask the HR specialist from corporate how their day is going, and what plans they have for the weekend. Start a conversation; you never know where it'll lead.
2. Find a common interest
People bond over having things in common--that's just human nature. After you start talking, try to figure out what the person likes and doesn't, without forcing it, of course. If you feel that you guys may have a shared interest, continue pursuing conversation about it.
3. Exchange contact information
Too many times, people make great connections without keeping in touch, even with all this useful technology at our hands. Make sure you grab the contact info of people you connect with, if just for a fleeting second.
4. Take it out of the office
To really get to know someone and spark a deeper friendship, invite the other person to join you for coffee, or to grab lunch at a local hangout, or just go for a walk outside your office. Pick a spot that conducive to both of your interests, but not high-pressure. If you've got somewhere to go where you have space to talk--but don't feel constantly obligated to--you'll get the chemistry rolling.
5. Don't try too hard
Despite the fact that eagerness is usually not a bad trait, seeming overenthusiastic about all the excitement of new friendship is actually off-putting to many people. Seem interested, but not to the point of scaring the other person away. You'll be all set for starting a great, new relationship.