Does Your Social Life Revolve Around Your Job?

I love my readers!

I recently posted what I called the “Joe Series” based on a reader’s experiences being out of work for longer than he ever imagined – and how he finally found a job he likes even better than the one that let him go.  The idea for these posts started with a comment Joe left on one of my posts.

Well, another reader, the delightful MusEditions, left her own comment about what Joe said in Being Out of Work is Just Plain Scary regarding the social aspects of work . Here’s what she  said:

While I had work friends over the years, I mostly socialized extracurricularly, if you will. I never really thought about it, but it’s probably important to develop interests outside of work while we are still employed; that way life can be more balanced in challenging times.

She makes a really good point.  It’s all about the balance.  Even if we don’t lose our jobs, having most of our social life center around work-based relationships never gets you away from the job. At least on some level, you always bring your work with you.

Now as much as I encourage you to love your job 😉 I think life is a whole lot richer if we surround ourselves with friends from a variety of places. And if you’re spending most of your social capital on your work-based relationships, maybe Joe’s words will get you thinking:

The social effects of losing my job was something else I wasn’t prepared for at all. It never occurred to me that about 90% of my social life was directly related to my job. My previous job was very social and every day I had lunch with co-workers or a vendor. Almost overnight I was spending the entire day by myself.

So what about your work relationships?


Of course, having good work relationships can be important. Not only does it make the job more pleasant, it’s an essential part of working smart and building a strong social network. But what percent of your time and energy do you give work relationships in relation to your whole life?

Early in my career, I avoided getting too close to anyone at work because I didn’t want my social life to cross over with my job life.  And I just hated being forced to socialize with my colleagues, as many places do to encourage camaraderie and teamwork.  For some, depending on their particular job and preferences, keeping a distance may the right choice. (Although I’ve learned that it does pay to give in to the forced (uh…highly encouraged) socialization if you can at all bring yourself to do so. Even for introverts like me.)

On the other hand,  some people bring 100% of who they are right into the workplace from day one and set no boundaries whatsoever. Again, while I think in most cases workplace boundaries are a really good thing, there may be circumstances where this works for an individual. Although I do want to mention one very extroverted in-your-face woman I helped hire for a manager’s  job. Turns out she had almost no boundaries and spent all her lunches with just the same few members of her staff. Unfortunately,  she was not good at interpreting the organizational culture, which highly discouraged such behavior. And, for this and other reasons, she eventually lost her job.

Anyone have a good balance scale?

wcc_balance_scale_v2 As for me…after all these years, I’ve found that a mix of both works best. Finding the balance – as MusEditions suggests. Apart from the good friendships I retain to this day, there have been great social networking benefits. Friends I’ve met in former jobs have been there for me many times over the years, pointing me to cool new job opportunities. (And, of course, I’ve done my best to return the favor in one way or another.) Then again, as I said before, there are also many situations where creating a professional distance is exactly the right approach.

My way of looking at it is there is no absolute rule that works in all cases. For me, it’s kind of like great art…you know it when you see it. But whatever your preference turns out to be, work-life balance is well worth considering. Does yours need tweaking?

Ronnie Ann

How’s your work-life balance? Is it working for you? Will it work for you in the future?

And if you’re curious, here are my posts from the Joe Series:

How NOT to Waste Time While Looking for a Job (1st post)

Being Out of Work is Just Plain Scary (2nd post)

Good to Have a Friend in HR Tell It to You Straight! (3rd and final post)


About the author…

Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, and on Google+.


  1. Another thoughtful post, Ronnie Ann. I work in advertising and for years was SO into what I did for a living that I only wanted to hang out with other people in the business. In fact, I referred to anyone not in the business as civilians. Now, almost organically, things have shifted so that only a few friends are in advertising. I think it’s because I now am much more aware of life outside the workplace. And while it’s great to socialize with people who know what your work life is like and can get into shop talk, it’s also really good to just separate from work when you’re not in the office.

  2. Really good post, RA, and thanks for the nice mention! 🙂 I’ve found over the years that I tend to retain one or two good friendships from each job or ex-extracurricular organization that last more than five years after the initial working together. But those that DO last are quite worthwhile. Such friendships only work for me if we retain our shared background, but also branch out into other interests together.

    It was always necessary to commit to a regular meeting of an activity for me, rather than just letting it be casual, because otherwise it was too easy to let work, during the busy season, just take over every minute. Being able to say “Gotta get to my rehearsal!” (or art class, or bowling league, or whatever it may be) gives some impetus to keeping the balance.

    As for socializing on the job—whew! Each situation is SO different. I agree, it’s best to be friendly, and part of the culture as much as one can. I never wanted to be one of those people, though, who work all day with five colleagues, then go out for drinks after work with those same colleagues, and maybe biking in the park on Saturday with, you guessed it… 😉

  3. Hi Terry and Muse! Thanks to both of you for the kind words.

    Terry: You are so diverse in your interests, it’s hard for me to imagine you just hanging out with your ad friends. As one of the many civilians you’ve enriched, I humbly thank you for branching out! 😉

    Muse: I so get what you mean. When I was first starting out after grad school, I was in a bank training program and blending our work and social lives was strongly encouraged. Luckily, I got out before the cloning process took, but for some it can be too late and the many things one can gain from a diverse life are lost – at least until some fateful event or realization comes along. Now I’m sure there are exceptions, but in my mind, the more we know of those outside our immediate circles, the richer we are.

    Nice advice about regular commitments helping to get you out of the office. Too easy to get sucked into the “work is everything” mentality. Both you and Terry are great examples of finding a life-work balance.

    Ronnie Ann

  4. i don’t have much of a social life outside of work. i hang out with my ex-schoolmates and ex-college mates about once a month. i enjoy hanging out with them but it is rather costly compared to having a sort of social life at work.

    currently, i’m in a workplace where i enjoy the company of most of my workmates. i do not hang out with them after work but they make me look forward to work. before i was in a workplace where i didn’t have friends and i dreaded it. but now i’m afraid of the day when i have to leave my current workplace comes because i don’t know if i can leave my friends there! 🙁

  5. Hi sulz!

    Nice to see you here. I think you’re lucky to be working with people you really like and in no way should anything I said minimize that. As you move along in your career, there’s a good chance some of the people you know and like now will be there for you even after you leave your current job.

    I have no doubt along the way you’ll pick up a few extra good buds with different interests. You’re still early in your career with lots of exciting things ahead of you and lots of exciting people to meet. Can’t wait to read about them in your memoirs. 😉

    Ronnie Ann

  6. I never have a social life at work. People at work are rude, completley different to me, and outside work all they want to talk about it work; how interesting. Bottom line – working for a company sucks. Did you know the word ‘boss’ is derived from an ancient foreign word ‘bass’ which actually means master.

  7. Hah! I shouldn’t be surprised. I know what you mean Dan. I’ve had many jobs where I spent the days thinking about how soon I could move on. Maybe that’s why I eventually decided to be a consultant. But I will also tell you that over the years I’ve found ways to enjoy work more and learned what role I can play in making things better for myself and coincidentally I’ve had much nicer bosses. 😉 I wish you the same. (Who knows? Maybe you’ll wind up being a consultant too. )

    Good luck!

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