Friends or Coworkers? How to Balance Boundaries so You Can Be Both

Working with friends is never easy. It takes hard work, just like any relationship you have. Whether you decide to start a business with a friend or are forming friendships with your coworkers, it changes the dynamic of your relationship. That doesn’t necessarily mean the change is negative.

I’ve only worked with friends. I’ve built businesses with friends, created art with friends, and befriended the majority of my co-workers, clients, and bosses. In fact, the people I work with are my BEST friends.

When everything is in harmony, working with friends makes the work even more rewarding.

But when the waters get shaky, working with your friends can feel like a burden. Some people argue that working with friends can’t mix well, but I like to view it as a marriage. There are ups and downs, but when you know how to embrace the good and tend to the bad… it can really make your relationship so much stronger. It does not have to be a struggle.

All you need are a few insightful reminders on how to find balance in your working relationship and friendship.


Be clear and communicative on expectations.

Every working relationship and friendship is different. Have an honest conversation on what your expectations are for each other, the work dynamic, and your friendship. What boundaries do you need in order to maintain harmony in your working relationship? Are there certain conversations that you want kept between the two of you? Do you want to keep your friendship completely outside of the workplace to maintain professionalism? Think about any possible situations you might have to go through and imagine how you will handle it as a team. These are some things to address, but like I said earlier… the needs are different for everyone. All you have to do is talk about it and be open to those needs/expectations changing or evolving as well.

Pick and choose your battles.

This is something I think about every single time I have an unpleasant experience with someone that results in me feeling angry, sad, worried, stressed, or doubtful. That someone has been my own mom, a friend, a boss, and sometimes both a friend AND a boss. Meditate on it before reacting. I like to ask myself:

Is this action, response, or experience going to help us get to our goal, or not?

Does this one moment really matter in the end, or is it a temporary feeling? You might find that in the moment you were heated, but after some reflection it does not really bother you anymore.

Some things aren’t worth mentioning unless it really, really affects you and how you work together. That being said, if there is a problem that is continuously bothering you, vocalize it. Tend to it right away instead of let fester. Speak from the heart and be honest. That is the best you can do in difficult situations.


Take space when you need to.

Disagreements happen, feelings get hurt… it’s all a part of the journey. Know when you need space from a situation to catch your chill. It makes communicating so much clearer. When emotions run high, we can say or do things we don’t mean or keep adding fuel to a fire when we don’t need to. Feelings can be temporary, but actions last forever and have consequences. It’s totally okay to say, “Hey, I hear you. But I need some space before I jump back into this because I’m frustrated right now and I won’t be able to react or respond in the best, most constructive way.” When you’re ready, dive back in and work together to find a solution.

Know that you are a team.

Go through the celebrations as a team, the losses as a team, and all the nitty gritty in between. Teamwork builds a rock solid foundation that can get through anything. No matter what team you are a part of, whether it’s the relationship team, the friendship team, or the work team, it doesn’t feel so great when the person you are supposed to count on doesn’t pull their weight.

Make time to also self reflect. You may not be able to see what your coworkers are doing, or if they aren’t doing it your way. That doesn’t mean it won’t lead you all to success. This is a lot of what comes up when working with friends - they may have a different work ethic, and it could feel like they aren’t on your side. Ask yourself: is this lack of teamwork a “me” issue or a “them” issue?

Work together, not against each other. Ask for help when you need it, offer support when you can give it.

Teamwork is about trust. It’s that simple.


Hold yourself and each other accountable.

Remember the “why” behind your work: what are you striving for, together? What are the goals, and what results are you aiming for? When you remember the why behind your work, everything you do has meaning. Give each other feedback and strive to work better together. Set your daily intentions with one another so you can motivate each other to stay focused, have a positive mindset, and work harmoniously together.

When you’re in the wrong, you should be the first to own up to it. Accountability comes from leading by example. Not only will it make you a great co-worker, an amazing leader, or a awesome boss… it will make you a great friend, too.

Photos by Eun Creative