How to Set Boundaries With Your Co-Workers and Keep Things Professional

We spend a lot (like really, a lot) of time with our co-workers, so it’s nice to have a comfortable relationship with them. When things get too cozy, though, they gain the potential to head south quickly, whether it’s through romantic entanglement or just the natural rise and fall of close friendships.

Setting boundaries at work helps the whole office work more efficiently, feel less stressed, and generally operate pretty smoothly. Here’s how to keep your colleagues at a comfortable distance without building an igloo over your cubicle.

Don’t go digging for personal info.

It’s nice to chat with your work friends about weekend plans and exciting trips, but keep in mind that getting some personal insight doesn’t entitle you to all of it. If they offer a topic like an upcoming date, then they’re probably down to gab a little. If they shrug off your comment about iffy roommate moments, take that as a cue to step back and respect their privacy. At the end of the day, not everyone is going to want to share a ton of their out-of-work business when they’re at the office, and it’s all about understanding and respecting those boundaries.

Keep it in the friendzone.

Office romances are never as cute as Jim and Pam’s, and usually end up working out in a wildly more dramatic (and kind of horrific) way. You know how horrible breakups feel and how off-kilter they can throw you? Wanna try going through all that while the person who broke your heart (or even just your ego) is sitting ten feet away from you all day and can totally see your mid-morning crying eyes? Didn’t think so.

When in doubt, throw it out.

Of your head, that is. If you’re unsure about the propriety of a comment or question, it might be best to just avoid it altogether. Chances are that if you’re having second thoughts about whether or not a comment or a question is appropriate, it probably isn’t. For that reason, it’s often better to keep some things rumbling around your brain than it is to make the rest of your time in that job a super awkward cage of co-worker discomfort.