10 Ways To Distance Yourself From A Coworker Friend

Is a workplace friendship encroaching too much into your personal life and work-life balance?

If you feel like a work friend is getting too comfortable or cozy around you and that it has the potential to damage your career or ruin your productivity, you might want to distance yourself from them.

However, how can you do that without causing unnecessary drama and tension in the workplace?

You may need to continue interacting with this coworker on projects, so cutting all contact isn’t usually an option.

Here are some tips for distancing yourself from a coworker friend while minimizing the resulting consequences.

Also Read: Why Your Co-workers Are Not Your Friends?

5 Signs That Your Work Friendship is Toxic

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How can you know if a relationship with someone at work has turned toxic? Here are some signs of unhealthy work relationships that can do you harm in the long run.

1. Constant Gossip

Gossip for bad work relationships

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Is your work friend constantly gossiping about other people and badmouthing them? That’s not the kind of energy you want around you.

You should hang out with someone who contributes to a positive office environment, not someone who is constantly putting others down and expecting you to do the same.

They might expect you to join in on their “us vs them” mentality, but is that healthy or good for you in the long run? Absolutely not.

Also Read: Bad Company Culture Examples

2. Compromising Professional Relationship By Expecting You to Take Their Side

Harming Professional Relationship by expecting You to Take Their Side

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A coworker who expects you to take their side in office disagreements or in feuds with your boss isn’t a good friend. If you always take their side, even when they were clearly in the wrong, it will end up hurting you in the long run.

Other people will start disliking you, especially if that coworker has a habit of being on bad terms with many other people. If they get upset at you that you failed to take their side, especially when they were clearly in the wrong, it’s time to start distancing yourself from them.

Explore: Best Workplace Culture Examples To Follow

3. Distracting You From Work

Distracting You From Work

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A coworker who distracts you from work will end up hurting your career and preventing you from moving forward. Someone who isn’t serious about their job and tries to get you to take things lightly as well isn’t a good influence.

If you are serious about your job, but they don’t care about their job at all, put some distance between yourself and them. You obviously have different values and priorities – don’t let them drag you down!

A coworker might also want to chat with you excessively during work hours, preventing you from working on projects. Or, they may try to get you to hang out after work when you need to work on certain things that you have deadlines for.

It’s important to surround yourself with coworkers who understand the value of hard work and share your work ethic. Make friends with people who will support and understand you when you are trying to commit yourself to your work and career.

Above all, make friends with people who understand the company culture and won’t pressure you to do things you don’t want to do.

Check Out: Best Organizational Culture Examples To Inspire

4. Asking for Too Many Favors

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Does it seem like a coworker is always asking you for favors? They might ask you to:

  • Lend them money
  • Cover for them at work
  • Complete a project for them

The worst kind of favors is when you have to cover for them, as that can land you in trouble and even cost you your job. However, any kind of excessive asking for favors is a one-sided relationship – they are taking advantage of your friendship and kindness, and you should not tolerate that.

5. Having Unrealistic Expectations

A coworker shouldn’t have unrealistic expectations of you. You shouldn’t have to do the bulk of the project you were both assigned to together, for example; both of you should contribute equally.

Check Out: Powerful Words To Describe A Company Culture

How to Distance Yourself From a Coworker Friend?

1. Minimize or Eliminate After-Hour Hangouts

Eliminate After-Hour Hangouts

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Socializing with coworkers after work is pretty common. Many people enjoy grabbing a beer or chilling with a fellow employee after a long day of work or on the weekend.

However, it does have drawbacks. Many people prefer to keep their work and social lives separate, and that’s perfectly fine.

In fact, it helps minimize problems that can result from becoming too close to a coworker. Remember, your coworkers are not your friends – at the end of the day, your priority at your job should be advancing in your career.

If you already hang out with a coworker, and it leads to an unhealthy kind of closeness, stop. You don’t have to keep hanging out just because they are lonely and ask you to grab a beer or come over and play a video game.

Say that you are busy. Give an excuse – perhaps you have a project you need to work on, perhaps you are learning how to code in your free time, or perhaps you need to help your grandmother declutter her basement, which she hasn’t cleaned in years.

It doesn’t really matter why – you can just say that you are tired and overworked and don’t want to hang out after work hours. People should be able to respect the fact that you don’t have time to hang out.

By ensuring your interactions with the coworker in question is at the office only, it will become a lot easier to maintain a professional relationship with them.

Explore: Exit Interview Tips To Talk Out Bad Boss & Toxic Workplace

2. Keep Things Professional and Focus on Your Work

Keep Things Professional and Focus on Your Work

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Even if you’ve stopped hanging out with your coworker after work, it’s important to know how to manage your in-office interactions. You will likely bump into them at the water cooler, in the coffee room, in the elevator, and in other places.

A friendly chat is fine, but keep things professional. Don’t allow a coffee break to turn into a long chat session.

Excuse yourself and say that you need to get back to work because work is piling up, and you have deadlines. Say that your boss is monitoring you more closely, and you need to up your performance.

Keep things professional. Remain cordial, but don’t allow your coworker to distract you from your tasks at hand.

Explore: Smart Work Goal Examples For Employees

3. Don’t Spend Too Much Time Chatting Online

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If you are connected with your coworker on WhatsApp or another online messaging platform, that’s another obstacle on this obstacle course you must navigate. You may also be connected on an app you use for group communication but which also allows people to send private DMs to each other.

Your friend might be used to chatting with you all the time, and they may expect you to always reply and chat back. One way to approach this is to simply start replying less and less quickly.

People should understand that life gets in the way, and you can’t always be on hand to reply to someone’s messages or pick up their calls all the time. If they keep pressing, say that you have been pretty busy and caught up with things.

Hopefully, they get the hint.

Social media, in general, can be tricky, but I will discuss some ways to navigate it later in this article.

Check Out: Signs Your Job Is At Risk

4. Don’t Be Afraid to Set Boundaries

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Boundaries are important in work relationships. It’s critical to set boundaries for yourself and know which lines you won’t cross.

For example, you might be okay with hanging out with coworkers and grabbing a coffee with them, but drinking alcohol with them or going clubbing might be off-limits. Or, you may be okay with grabbing a beer at a bar, but inviting them to your home might be a big no-no.

Alternatively, you may be okay with hanging out with a coworker of the opposite gender, but never let it get flirtatious.

At the end of the day, you need to know your own boundaries and what you’re comfortable with. Then, stick to them, and don’t allow peer pressure to convince you otherwise.

Also Read: Signs You Should Quit Your Job Immediately

5. Balancing Personal Life: Consider Open, Honest Communication

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Most of the time, when you distance yourself from a coworker using the above methods, you will eventually drift apart and stop being so close over time. If you stop hanging out with them after work, chatting with them online all the time, and spending too much time with them at the coffee machine, you will stop being close.

It might take time – it could be a few weeks or a few months. Be patient and go slowly – there’s usually no need to cut off communication entirely in one go.

Most people have active lives and may not even notice the progression of how you become further apart.

However, there are times when someone might not get the hint or might be so persistent at trying to get you to hang out or do unproductive things with them (like taking illegal substances or clubbing late at night on a weekday).

In those cases, it might be better to be honest. Be tactful because you don’t want to hurt their feelings.

At the same time, being clear and upfront might be the best option when dealing with someone who doesn’t know how to take hints. You might say that you no longer want to go partying because it ruins your productivity or that you can no longer hang out after work because you have other things going on in your life.

You might say that for your health, you don’t want to drink alcohol anymore and that you just won’t do it with them anymore.

Check Out: Signs Your Boss Is Testing You At Work

6. Learn How to Say No within Workplace Friendships

 How to Say No within Workplace Friendships

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For a lot of people, saying no can be difficult. Many people are born people-pleasers and have difficulty refusing a request or turning someone down.

It’s critical to learn how to say no. This skill will come in handy not only in your work relationships but in all aspects of life.

Getting better at saying no is a skill that you must practice. The first few times, it will likely be very difficult.

You may feel guilty about refusing someone’s request and feel bad about it, or you might be fearful that someone will get angry and upset at you and no longer like you. That can be hard if you are always trying to be on good terms with everyone and are a non-confrontational person in general.

However, the more you do it, the easier it will become. You will learn that it’s not the end of the world and that the person will likely not be mad at you – even if they are a bit upset at first, that won’t last long, and you can still have a cordial and respectful relationship.

To get better at saying no, you have to say exactly that – no. Too many people prefer to say “maybe” or “a different time” or “I don’t think I can make it” instead of being upfront about it.

Just say no! Being upfront will also stop the other person from continually asking you, again and again, to do whatever it was they were asking you.

Remember, knowing how to say no is a lot about respecting yourself and putting yourself first instead of prioritizing other people and their needs, feelings, and opinions.

Check Out: Tips For Dealing With A Difficult Female Boss

7. Be Smart About Social Media Interactions

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Social media can be tricky, as I already said. It’s best not to connect with your coworkers on social media – if they ask for your Instagram, say that you don’t use it often or aren’t very active on there.

Sometimes, though, your coworkers might find you on Facebook or Snapchat if they have your contact saved on their phones. However, you can turn off contact syncing, so that is no longer possible.

What if you are already connected with your coworker on social media? Deleting them probably isn’t a good idea, as it’s an extreme measure that isn’t really necessary and can lead to bad blood.

There are other ways to deal with it. Did you know you can change your privacy settings so that you hide your Instagram or Facebook story from specific people?

On Facebook, you can also hide posts from specific friends (as long as your post privacy settings are not set to public).

It’s best if your Instagram profile is private. Otherwise, a coworker might stalk you from a different profile and see your story from there and then find out you’ve been hiding it from them (while this is unlikely to happen, as most people won’t do that, it could happen).

On WhatsApp, you can also hide your status from people. In fact, it’s usually a good idea, especially if you say you can’t hang out with someone but then proceed to hang out with your other group of friends and post stories of that on your status.

Besides, it’s generally a good idea to hide your story from coworkers. You don’t want any of them reporting to your boss that you were out enjoying yourself when you called in sick.

Check Out: Constructive Criticism In The Workplace

8. Avoid Gossiping

Don’t gossip at work. That’s one red line that you should set, as nothing good can ever come out of gossiping.

Office gossip is harmful, both for you and for others. A culture of gossip means that while you will be gossiping about other people, they will be gossiping about you as well.

That isn’t something that could benefit you in any way, so why contribute to it? Words and rumors have a way of getting around, and they may reach your boss and manager.

If a coworker wants to gossip, cut the conversation short and excuse yourself.

Also Read: Traits Toxic Bosses Have In Common

9. Avoid Divulging Personal Information

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Another boundary you should set with coworkers is to avoid divulging personal information. Again, word gets around, and even if you don’t gossip, people may gossip about you.

Protect yourself by being careful with the information you provide to coworkers. If you called off sick because you wanted to treat your significant other to a nice day out at the movies and a fancy restaurant, don’t tell others about it, even if you think you can trust them.

Again, your coworkers are not your friends. They will likely put their own career advancements over you, and if they think that bad-mouthing you can get them forward, some of them might do it.

10. Consider Extreme Measures and Their Consequences

An extreme measure is cutting off a coworker entirely, blocking them on social platforms and messaging apps like WhatsApp.

It’s not usually a good idea because it can have all sorts of negative consequences – for example, they may badmouth you to your boss or fail to keep you updated on important information necessary for your work.

It’s easier if you only need to interact with them from time to time on insignificant issues, such as when you work in different departments.

Explore: When Your Boss Makes You Feel Incompetent – What To Do?

How To Distance Yourself From A Coworker Friend? – Wrapping It Up

Deciding to distance yourself from a workplace friendship can be a difficult decision. However, sometimes, it’s the best way forward for you and the best thing you can do for your career and to ensure you don’t lose your job.

If a coworker, with whom you’ve developed a workplace friendship, is exhibiting toxic behavior or is having a negative influence on you, it might be time to put the brakes on your relationship and create some distance between you two.

About Author

Tom loves to write on technology, e-commerce & internet marketing. I started my first e-commerce company in college, designing and selling t-shirts for my campus bar crawl using print-on-demand. Having successfully established multiple 6 & 7-figure e-commerce businesses (in women’s fashion and hiking gear), I think I can share a tip or 2 to help you succeed.