How to Make Friends at Work

By Erika Rahman
Illustration of Carl the Yeti sitting next to a giant laptop surrounded by hearts.

How to Make Friends at Work

No matter what company you work for or where you come from, making friends at work can feel difficult. Maybe you’re struggling to connect on shared interests, getting past social anxieties, or you just don’t have the time to have personal conversations with your team members.

Don’t worry! You’re not alone. We’ve asked around and gathered 17 tips to help you make friends at work and create relationships that go beyond the office.

Join Company Social Committees

An uncommon but effective example is joining a company fun committee; this way you can get involved with personalizing your workplace experience while working closely with a variety of colleagues.

This will give you an opportunity to meet people from different departments that you may not cross paths with normally, and ensure everyone feels a sense of team spirit through endearing activities such as hosting costume contests for holidays or decorating the space for special events.

Michael Alexis, CEO, swag.org

Let Your Personality Shine Through and Be Yourself

image with text - A kind word, a friendly smile, or even a joke shared among coworkers can go a long way in building relationships that last.

One of the best pieces of advice I can give for making friends at work is to take a minute each day and make sure you are truly seen. A kind word, a friendly smile, or even a joke shared among coworkers can go a long way in building relationships that last. Who knows? Maybe that one gesture could spark an unlikely friendship.

After all, some of the most meaningful friendships come out of thin air! That said, don't be afraid to be yourself; it's important to let your personality shine through, even in the workplace.

Mogale Modisane, CEO & Chief Content Creator, ToolsGaloreHQ

Take Advantage of Common Workspaces

There is an old saying that actions speak louder than words, and if you want to make friends at work, then one of the best ways is to perform your tasks in a common work area. Part of making friends is letting people know you are approachable, and those who are constantly tucked away in their office or cubicle cannot take advantage of opportunities to interact and give a sense to their coworkers that they do not wish to be bothered.

Taking advantage of common work areas, inviting others to join you, or joining others when they are using those spaces shows that you want to be around people and creates opportunities for meaningful interaction. By getting out of your closed area and going to a common workspace, you will demonstrate to your coworkers that you are a sociable person and will create conditions that are more conducive to making friends at work.

Cody Candee, CEO, Bounce

Remember Small Talk Matters

image with text - Small talk is a springboard for larger, more meaningful conversations

People often deride small talk as shallow and meaningless, but it is an essential part of making friends. Small talk is a springboard for larger, more meaningful conversations and also provides points to have informal interactions throughout the day. These informal interactions are essential to building rapport and sparking friendships.

Adam Shlomi, Founder, SoFlo Tutors

Help Your Fellow Employees

A helpful person quickly develops genuine relationships with others, so when you take the time to help your fellow employees at the workplace, you will have plenty of friends. When it is your intent to help, you notice things others don't and make an effort others typically wouldn't, and this is enough to increase your interactions with your team members.

In you, they will find a trusted colleague who doesn't mind lending them a hand. This will not only help you develop genuine friendships, but will also help you learn more about your workplace and grow as an accomplished employee.

Azmaira Maker, Ph.D., Founding Director, Aspiring Families

Attend Work Events

The best way to make friends at work is to put yourself out there and take part in meet-up groups or work events organized by the office. There's no better way to find out if you have a common interest with your co-workers than to meet them in a real-world situation.

You may start off talking about work, but by showing interest in each other's outside lives, there is potential for a genuine connection. Start by attending one event and promise yourself to make an effort and see how it goes. You may end up finding that group of close-knit friends you've been looking for who can help ease some workplace stress. It's always great to have a confidant two or three desks away.

Anthony Martin, Founder & CEO, Choice Mutual

Respect Everyone's Boundaries

People have different comfort levels with being social at work. Some people might prefer to keep their conversations brief and professional, while others may enjoy talking about more personal topics.

image with text - Respect everyone's boundaries and don't take it personally if someone doesn't seem enthusiastic about getting to know you.

Respect everyone's boundaries and don't take it personally if someone doesn't seem enthusiastic about getting to know you. At the same time, don't be afraid to put yourself out there and start conversations with people—just make sure you read their body language so that you know the best time to do so.

Peter Lucas, Owner, Relocate to Andorra

Do Not Force Friendships

Being friendly at work is worthwhile to give people a good impression of you and to make your teammates feel supported. That said, forcing friendships too much in the workplace could backfire because sometimes friendships do not work out. In addition, facing an ex-friend at work can be emotionally stressful, which could even affect your work performance.

So, while it's good to be friendly, let your workplace friendships evolve naturally rather than trying to make a new best friend immediately.

Drew Sherman, Director of Marketing & Communications, Carvaygo

Use the Whatzit Method

Leil Lowndes has said in her famous book, How to Talk to Anyone, that using the Whatzit Method always helps make great friends, whether at work or anywhere else. The author advises wearing something a bit odd or unusual at social gatherings. Then, people will approach and inquire about or comment on that object.

This is a beautiful approach to starting a conversation with them or giving them a chance to do so. You can modify this hack for your workplace. For example, you can keep interesting objects, photo frames, or decorations at your desk. This approach lets you and your fellow employees learn about each other's interests and make great friends.

Madhurima Halder, Content Manager, Recruit CRM

Show Genuine Interest in Others

Active listening is the best way to make friends in the workplace; you're going into a conversation focusing on listening to the speaker. The people you interact with are getting your full attention. You will need to actively take an interest in the conversation and not be distracted, and this means closing your computer or putting away the phone, looking the speaker in the eye, and focusing on what they're saying and not on what you're going to contribute after they stop talking.

For virtual conversations, giving someone your full attention may help by looking at a designated area on the screen so as not to seem distracted. You can self-regulate interruptions by muting yourself while the other person is speaking. When the person has stopped talking, repeat some of the main points of the conversation or follow up with clarifying questions to show interest.

Bernice Chao, Author, The Visibility Mindset

Learn People's Names and Use Them

It's difficult to learn everyone's name in a large office, but it's important to try if you want to build relationships with your coworkers. People are more likely to trust and engage in conversation with someone who can remember their name, so it's worth the effort.

Make a list of everyone you work with and try to remember one thing about each person—it could be something like the music they listen to or the sport they play. This will help you remember who they are and make it easier to start conversations with them the next time you see them. It's also important to use people's names in conversation—this makes a person feel valued and builds trust.

Todd Saunders, General Manager, BIG Safety

Find People that Have Similar Interests to You

My go-to method for making friends at work is to find someone with similar interests. For example, I'll talk to a colleague about something work-related. When the conversation is about to end, I'll ask, "Do you watch football?" We can then transition into what teams we support and other related topics. From here, you should be able to meet up with them after work without it being awkward. If both of you love football, ask them to meet at a nearby bar to watch the game.

Scott Lieberman, Owner, Touchdown Money

Avoid Gossip at All Costs

Stay away from office gossip. It can be tempting to indulge in gossip when a coworker you've been trying to bond with finally approaches you wanting to dish, but you must think long-term.

Connecting over a mutual dislike of a boss, coworker, or aspect of your job isn't the type of friendship worth keeping—and they don't have strong, lasting power, either. Let coworkers vent when needed, but stick to actively listening, not reacting. If someone tells you something juicy, don't pass it on to others. Turn around overly negative conversations by presenting a positive side or topic change. That move might irritate the office gossip, and cut a portion of your team from becoming more than your professional acquaintances.

It's a worthwhile loss, as more trustworthy teammates will take note of your mature, positive nature and allow space for true friendships to blossom.

Jack Underwood, CEO & Co-Founder, Circuit

Consistently Meet KPIs to Show You Can Be Counted On

When making friends at work, I carefully vet the individual for reliability. I want to be sure I can count on them. There is no better way to show you are reliable than by consistently meeting KPIs at work.

From what I have observed, unreliability is a vice that is not usually limited to the workplace. Unreliable teammates who consistently miss KPIs often are unreliable in their personal lives. On the other hand, people who can be trusted in the office are people you can also trust outside the office as friends.

Therefore, if you want to attract high-caliber friends at your workplace, you must deliberately exude an aura of dependability. Like attracts like. Being dependable will also draw dependable people at work into your inner circles. This means you are not just making friends but strengthening your personal life with dependable allies you can turn to during crises.

Lotus Felix, CEO, Lotus Brains Studio

Go Out to Lunch Together

It's difficult to make friends when you get older. My best friend and I met working together at my last job. There was a Mexican restaurant nearby that had lunch specials on Tuesdays. One day I asked my coworker if he wanted to come with me. It then became a weekly tradition that we would always go to lunch together on Tuesdays.

You might not meet your next best friend through work, but going to lunch together or with a group from work is a great way to meet friends at work. Being out of the office makes it easier to open up with each other in a different environment than at work.

Tawanda Johnson, HR & DEI Consultant, Sporting Smiles

Bring Coffee

Making friends at work can be challenging. My best tip for making friends at work is to bring coffee (or bakery items). Yes, that's right! Bring coffee! It might sound super cliché, but it works.

When people are at work, they usually are stressed, trying to get projects done, or generally moving at a fast pace, they might not have time to open up to someone they don't know. We all are like this sometimes. Bringing coffee instantly shows your fellow employees that you care about them and think of them. It is much easier for them to open up when they know that you are genuine. Bringing something to make friends may sound like you are "buying" friends at work, but it's actually a genuine thing to do and people recognize that. If you have a hectic office environment like mine, you know that most days, you don't even have time to go out to eat lunch. When someone takes the time to bring a refreshment to you, even the most closed individuals will want to drop by with a thank you!

Brian Clark, CEO & Marketing Director, United Medical Education

Root for Your Teammates' Success

Celebrate everybody's wins, both big and small. It can be easy sometimes to fall into a competitive mentality. What if instead, you became the biggest cheerleader in the business?

For example, surprise someone with flowers after they win a new account or get a promotion. Even better, buy them a latte just because you think they've been working hard. Hopefully, you believe in your company's vision, so why not support your coworkers in bringing said vision to fruition?

Kenneth Lin, CEO, BOOP Bakery