Employees are gradually returning to the office for work as more companies transition into a hybrid model.

The shift from a private workspace to returning to a public work environment is an adjustment. For many, it requires re-establishing professional boundaries in the office. It’s natural to want those professional relationships to turn personal with colleagues. This can create a better work environment where people can bond and connect more deeply. However, there are certain lines you should not cross to ensure those connections don’t turn toxic.

Find the balance between forming relationships at work and keeping things professional with these tips.

Do Start a Conversation at Work

The first step that sets the foundation for any friendship is to talk. Speaking with someone you’re not too familiar with can be intimidating. It can also be uncomfortable, especially if you’re the one to initiate the first conversation. Small talk can guide the conversation until diving into other topics becomes more comfortable. Discovering shared interests, finding common ground and learning the basics about a person makes it easier to chat with them in the future.

Asking a person about past career experiences, where they are from and even their zodiac signs are great conversation starters. Follow-up questions, keeping eye contact and leaning in at specific points also show you’re engaged and interested in hearing what is being said. Getting to know someone takes time, so there is no reason to feel pressured to immediately bond with a coworker.

Don’t Overshare Personal Information

People often don’t realize they have overshared until after it has happened. Oversharing is revealing too many personal details about yourself or a situation. In today’s culture, oversharing can happen for several reasons. While unintentional, oversharing can manifest as a desire for attention or empathy.

Oversharing at work, however, can be a thin line to cross regarding professional boundaries. A person’s reputation, future coworker interactions and workplace gossip are factors to consider when deciding what information to share with a colleague. Although it may seem harmless, people can have ulterior motives. Whether it be a promotion on the line or a co-worker’s perception, you never know how or when a person can use a private conversation against you.

Do Make Genuine Connections at Work

The need to act a certain way to fit in the company culture can sometimes come with the territory of the job. But being someone you’re not makes it harder to form genuine connections with your colleagues. True friendships are built on being fully yourself.

Showing up as your honest self, regardless of the company culture, helps solidify those bonds slowly being developed amongst your colleagues. If a few of your co-workers get together outside of work, it can cause an awkward interaction if the off-work person doesn’t match up with who you are in the office. 

Don’t Be Cliquey

When you find those coworkers you click with, it’s easy to surround yourself with only them at work. There’s not a better feeling than seeing the people you connect with on a separate level. However, hanging out with the same people without trying to get to know others in the office can come off as cliquey. Office cliques are one situation to avoid because of the drama they can bring. To avoid unnecessary drama, branch out of your comfort zone and find a different co-worker to spend time with.

Do Connect with Your Manager or Boss

Building trust and transparency with your boss can make for a meaningful connection inside the office. It can also help with your career growth, job satisfaction and provide increased opportunities for mentorship.

A professional relationship where you can communicate effectively and accomplish the company’s goals makes for a better working experience. Establishing a solid collaborative relationship with your boss goes a long way as you navigate the workforce.

Don’t Push a Friendship with Your Supervisor

Having a positive connection with your higher up, however, doesn’t always have to end in friendship. Your boss is still in charge, and it isn’t worth the risk of jeopardizing your position to be friends at work.

While the positive connection can still exist, being mindful of what you say creates a boundary for both parties to not cross.