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Navigating the Shifting Landscape of Work Friendships

Three people sitting at a table looking at one person's phone. The person on the left has long dark hair up in a bun and light skin. The person in the middle has brown skin, very short hair and is sitting in front of a small cup of coffee. The person on the right has short black hair that is dyed blond with the roots showing and is showing everyone their phone.
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto
Work friendships grow and change just like those outside the office.

The people you work with can drastically shape the experience of a job. And while the pandemic and hybrid work systems have changed how we interact with our colleagues, there are still common themes and conflicts experienced in employee relationships.

Whether you have a work spouse or a work frenemy, the relationships we make at work shape our well-being and productivity. And just like outside-work friendships, they go through changes and conflicts.

Host Anita Rao talks with psychologist and author Dr. Marisa G. Franco about how promotions and job changes can affect work friendships and why companies are so invested in their employees having friends at work. Katherine Hu, a Gen Z assistant editor at The Atlantic, also joins to talk about how younger generations are shifting away from considering offices as their primary social hubs.

Thank you to Clint, Georgia and Nick for their contributions to this episode!

Quiz: What Type of Work Friend Are You?

1. The Tension Tamer

Cracks jokes in the Zoom chat to keep the mood light. Checks in with you after a rough meeting to see if you’re okay. Will share their favorite snack with you during lunch.

2. The Work Hard Play Hard

Always down for a walk-and-talk or a rapid-fire Slack debrief. Partial to a post-work cocktail for taking that work friendship to the next level. Just don’t bug them when they’re in the zone.

3. The 9 to 5er

Models strong boundaries between work and leisure, supports their work friends in following suit. Frequently says “I do not dream of labor.” Will come to your party but will not discuss anything work-related.

4. The Cheerleader

Follows up to all your comments in meetings by saying “I think that’s a great idea,” before adding their own thoughts. Won’t spill the tea first but supports your vents and rants. Will ask you about that story you posted to IG on your day off.

5. The People Person

Loves a creative brainstorm and coworking. Speaks in meme. Organizes all the out-of-office group hangs.

6. Other, or a combination!!

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Kaia Findlay is a producer for Embodied, WUNC's weekly, live talk show on health, sex and relationships. Kaia first joined the WUNC team in 2020 as a producer for The State of Things.
Anita Rao is an award-winning journalist and the host and creator of "Embodied," a weekly radio show and podcast about sex, relationships & health. She's also the managing editor of WUNC's on-demand content.