Your colleagues are not your friends. Well, not necessarily. A lot of us use the word “friend” loosely. Everybody’s a friend. Because around here, we’re not taught to make the distinction verbally. We feel that it might come off as disrespectful or offensive. (It is this mentality that is responsible for a great many of our societal problems today) So our Father’s friend is our uncle and our mother’s customer is our aunt, their children are our cousins.
Some people take this to the workplace and get carried away. We say things like “he’s my friend. Not like my friend friend, we work together” instead of saying “he is my colleague“.
Perhaps if we would not take the word so literally, it would hold a deeper meaning and people might learn to do a better job of it. We would also be able to gauge the true number of friends we have and dedicate our resources accordingly. A lot of drama would also be avoided.
We depend on each other. We pair up with colleagues and share cars for the sake of proximity and while that may aid bonding (thanks to Lasgidi traffic), the act does not in itself force two people into friendship. For some, it takes only a 20-minute car ride to share their lives’ history with a co-passenger. And then take that assumption (that you are now friends with your co-passenger) into the work place and every single work disagreement is a grave slight from a “friend”, who in the real world, is simply a colleague who just helps you to and from work.
My friend Toke works at a bank in Marina. She started “following” one of her colleagues to work every morning from Badore in Ajah. Traffic inclusive, it’s at least a 2-hour journey to the office. Two weeks after their transport partnership began, we spoke on the phone and she told me about her “friend” that she goes to work with every day.
They talked about office shenanigans, economic issues, and some personal problems during their commute to and from work.
Then one day Toke complained to me. Her “friend” did not back her opinion at their departmental meeting. A few weeks after, Toke returned the favour by not backing her “friend’s” opinion at another meeting. At the end of the day, her “friend” informed her that she was not going straight home and as such Toke should find alternative transportation for the evening. She called me from the back of the Uber she was taking home to rant about her “friends” betrayal.
Toke: I’m telling you, it’s because I didn’t say anything about her pitch that’s why she doesn’t want to pick me.
Me: Toke, the lady was polite enough to give you a heads up. What if she just left the office without telling you? She’s not going home that’s all.
Toke: For where? Someone that just passed us at law school? I am not following her again o! I’ll be entering bus jeje. Or find another person to half the journey.
Me: But y’all are friends na. Why don’t you just talk about it? All dis not supporting each other at meetings and the attitude afterwards…
Toke: You don’t get. We’re not friends friends…
Me: ha! Which one is that? Look, maybe she just wanted alone time to think in her own car. And if she’d told you that, you would still feel somehow.
Toke: We’re done jare. All dis drama because person never buy moto…
Toke called me back when she saw her “friend” turn off at Shoprite to indeed prove that she wasn’t going straight home but Toke was still hurt that she didn’t just tell her exactly where she was going.
Toke: Why was she now coding?
Me: Shebi you people are not friends friends…
All that energy wasted. Because people do not understand the need to determine relationships. I do not think there is anything like work place friends. There are colleagues and there are friends. Period. One can have amazing colleagues or colleagues turned friends (after all friendship has to start from somewhere) but do you visit each other outside of work formalities, do you have a relationship that is blossoming outside of those long car rides?
You can be very cordial and friendly with colleagues, enjoy rides, share thoughts, exchange gifts at birthdays, weddings and naming ceremonies, take things less personally with colleagues without being friends. You do not have to be friends with a person to like them or be cordial.
This is not to say I am against cultivating friendships in the workplace. Happy/lucky are those who do. With the unhealthy work-life balance (or lack thereof) these days, we spend more time with our colleagues more than anyone else. But friendships are earned. It develops, grows. It is not assumed based on constant contact for the sake of convenience. A colleague is not automatically a friend because you spend a lot of time together. Plus it is usually less drama free when work and friendship’s separated. Just my two cents though. What do you think?