Pros and Cons of Having a BFF at Work

There's no gray area when it comes to work friendships — they're either the best or the absolute worst.

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No doubt about it: Having a friend in the next cubicle or on the same shift can make work a lot more enjoyable. And it might be good for a lot more than that: In an October 2016 review of studies, researchers analyzed office relationship data from 58 studies and more than 19,000 people and found that participants who identified closely with their coworkers were more likely to have better overall health. Plus, those with strong relationships with their coworkers were also less likely to face burnout. Score!

But close friends at work can make your professional life a lot more complicated, too. Back in November 2015, researchers at Rutgers University worked to get a better understanding of this dynamic. In their study, they investigated what they call a "multiplex friendship," which basically means you interact both as coworkers and as closer friends who might spend time together outside of the office.

After observing more than 300 employees in two different studies, the Rutgers researchers found something that most of us already knew: Work friendships are mixed blessings. But if you learn to embrace the pros and manage the cons, work friends can boost not only your mood, but also your productivity.

"On top of them improving attitude and making us feel more positively about our work environment, they really are assisting or aiding in the way that we perform our jobs and in our effectiveness," says lead investigator Jessica Methot, PhD, assistant professor of human resource management at Rutgers.

Here, some of TV's best work buddies demonstrate the study's findings.

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Pro: They provide support in the workplace.

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Maybe it's just a case of the Mondays, maybe your boss just yelled at you for an hour. Either way, your work buddy is there for you.

Con: You may be accused of playing favorites.

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You might be doing nothing of the sort. You might just have a good radar for smart buddies who are always right, but there will always be someone who thinks it's unfair.

"We might feel pressured to favor our friends — like back their ideas because we don't want to upset them — yet we may not think it's such a great idea," Dr. Methot adds. "And other people might see this in a negative light: 'Oh, you're just supporting her because you're such good friends.'"

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Pro: They create a more enjoyable work environment.

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We don't even want to imagine work life without inside jokes.

Con: You may have to choose between the company's success and your friend's feelings.

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Talk about rock and a hard place. Having to decide between doing what's best for the company and doing what won't offend or make your work friend look bad is always a toughie.

"The more we started to think about it, friendships with our co-workers present similar challenges as dating co-workers," Methot says. "Clearly, the intimacy is different, but the challenges are the same."

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Pro: They make you feel accepted and in the loop.

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How else do you get your daily dose of office gossip?

Con: You may have to prioritize roles.

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Are you their BFF or their co-worker first? Both roles go hand-in-hand a lot of the time, but once in a while you have to choose which relationship is more important for meeting your personal and professional goals. "It kind of pulls us in two different directions," Methot says.

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Pro: They can empathize with the challenges you face at work.

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No matter how hard your other friends try, they will never truly understand why John from Marketing is your nemesis. But your work buddy does!

"They know the people who we work with, they understand the challenges with our supervisors, they can relate how best to get the work done, so they have a lot of utility in that respect," Methot says.

Pro: They've got your back and you know you can ask them for help.

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They'll always lend a hand, even when what you're asking for is completely ridiculous.

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