When Can a Friendship at Work Become Toxic?

You spend at least 8 hours at work. So, you are used to seeing the same people over and over every day. At some point, one or a few of your colleagues will become your friends who you can share your life with them. They become your family and therapists, and you feel secure around them. You find yourself sharing jokes with them, eating lunch with them, and even sharing your interests like 25 free spins. Besides, having a friend at work can make you productive and happier when at work. 

However, like any normal relationship, friendships at work can become toxic. Below are some of the red flags that suggest your friendship at work is not healthy. 

They Expect you to Take Sides

A toxic friend will ask you to take sides whenever they have issues with a coworker. This, in turn, might destroy your professional relationships with your coworkers and you will seem unprofessional. A healthy friendship, instead, allows you to maintain your professional boundaries whether your friend has grudges with others or not. 

You Spend Time Gossiping About Others

Talking about others is simply human nature and it is common even in our workplaces. However, a friendship can become toxic when your friend wants you to spend limitless time at work gossiping about others. This can be discussing your colleague’s issues such as relationships, health, etc. Gossiping about your workmates is not only time-consuming but will make you lose respect and gain a bad reputation. You may also lose concentration at work since you are busy focusing on the personal issues of your workmates. 

You are Maintaining your Friendship Out of Fear

If you fear letting down your work friend, then there is a likelihood that your friendship is toxic. You are too afraid to turn them down whenever they want to gossip while you are working, or they want you to ditch your work. In short, if your work friend is making you do things you are uncomfortable with, but you are afraid of telling them “No”, then your relationship is poisonous. If you are feeling uneasy around them, then something is certainly. Trust your guts!

They Don’t Celebrate Your Successes

When you get a promotion or something good happens to you at work, a sincere friend should be the first person to congratulate you. They should be happy and proud of you. On the other hand, toxic friends would be jealous of your success or even try to ruin the moment for you. 

They Do not Respect Your Boundaries

Sometimes, all we want is a little peace to be able to finish our work. However, a toxic friend will not respect this and will always find a way to distract. 

They Start Harassing You In front of Other Colleagues

If your friend starts calling you names or “spanks” you in front of other colleagues, then s/he does not have any respect for you. Any kind of harassment whether physical, age, verbal abuse, personal, religion, gender, or bullying at work reveals that your friendship is extremely poisonous. 


Remember that when you find yourself in a toxic friendship situation at work, it is okay to cut off such relationships. If it is difficult, try to find a way to keep it professional and establish boundaries. Do not try to gang up on them in case they act unfairly toward you. Besides, if the problem is still there, raise the issue with your supervisor or human resources.