There's an interesting misconception that I see occurring all the time. I try to warn people against it, but no one ever really listens, and then on the back end I see people with hurt feelings and confusion.

by Melissa via Flickr

I'm talking about people you work with and determine that they're your friends. There's nothing saying that two people working together might not be friends at some point, but the reality is that most people accept someone they work with as their friend without making them pass what I call the "friends" test. Actually, many people don't even have a friends test, which is probably why many people end up being disappointed by their so-called friends.

The workplace is a unique environment. You spend 8 to 10 hours a day with a group of people, sharing ideas and conversation, and often that's double the time you get to spend with your family. That's what weekends are supposed to be for, to remind you of the people who are supposed to mean the most to you, but I digress.

When you spend a lot of time with people, you sometimes feel a camaraderie with them that feels a lot like friendship. What happens is people tend to let their guard down and reveal things to these people as if they're friends, feeling they can trust them implicitly. That's when things start to fail.

Most people are out for themselves; that's just human nature. When you reveal personal things about yourself, there's this pull that says "wow, who can I tell about this?" Next thing you know, they're telling someone they "trust", whose then going to tell someone they trust, and soon you realize that everyone knows your personal business, even though you only told your "friend".

Now you're angry and upset, but what can you do? You're the one who told this person the information. You're the one who didn't make them pass the friends test. You won't own up to it being your fault to begin with, but it is.

The same goes for talking about work and job issues. Just because you work with someone, and just because they might seem to agree with you, doesn't make them a friend or even trustworthy. Tell them an idea you have to make things easier and they might tell someone else and present it as their idea. Complain about a policy and they might tell a supervisor that you're causing trouble. Mention that you called in sick one time when you weren't sick and they might rat you out.

I have to say that I've never worked anywhere where I went out to see if I could make friends. Be friendly yes, but to actually become friends with anyone, never. I always felt it was the smarter move to establish who I was and what I expected from others before anything else occurred. I have made work friends, but very few over the years. I knew my agenda was much different than other people's agendas, and thus I never wanted to engage in anything with anyone who I didn't feel had my best interest at heart, and that was always the work.

But when it was possible, I had my specific friends test, and if that person passed my test we were good. And that's the thing; everyone has to figure out what their friends test will be, then stick with it as an evaluation tool. I have some loyal and long term friends because of that test. It hasn't failed me often, which is why I know it works. If you're looking to be a leader or a manager it's crucial that you have something like this to refer to. You can't take too many chances of naming people as friends who might be working against you in some fashion.

Always evaluate everyone on two things; competence and merit. You'll usually have all the answers you need by doing that.