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How Complaining Turns Coworkers Into Friends

How elements of risk forge alliances

There comes a moment in every burgeoning office friendship when you and your coworker begin to dance around the idea of talking some serious expletive. Usually, it starts with a generic work complaint (think: “I have so much to do lol”) and grows gradually more pointed until both parties realize they are ready and willing to get into it. Then there is the relief and the self-conscious laughter (i.e., “omg I was tiptoeing around that”), and then, finally, the volcanic stream of gossip and complaints. Among the many categories of transitional coworker/friend moments, this is my favorite. It is at this moment that you know you’re getting somewhere, socially, with someone: Maybe you are not quite yet real friends, but you are no longer just coworkers.

But what makes these moments feel so special, and how do we select the people we share them with? Talking negatively about work with a coworker involves some element of risk — every office has at least one Dwight, who’s all too eager to report back to the boss — so how do we decide when it’s safe, and who to drag into the mud with us?

Patricia Sias, a communications professor at the University of Arizona who researches workplace friendships, echoes my thinking that moments like these mark an important transition between two formerly professional-only peers. Let’s call it the Coworker/Friend spectrum: The moment when you realize you can openly complain about work with a person is the moment at which you tip over the midway point into Friend territory. Like all friendships, in which the self-disclosure stage marks shared trust, workplace friendships get more serious when coworkers feel free to (pardon me) get real. 

Please select this link to read the complete article from The Cut. (Warning: Some NSFW language featured)

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