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How To Build A Strong Tribe Of Work Friends

Workin' Girl

Work friends are arguably much harder to make than regular friends. There is a sense of control and discipline needed that you don't have normally. What many of us might not realize is that the same standards for your intimate tribe apply to your work tribe. An empowering work tribe can keep your career thriving, keep you sane, and above the fray. A negative work tribe can infiltrate your mind and potentially ruin your career trajectory. Many of us don't even like our jobs but having a negative tribe doesn't make that any easier.

Your life is meant to be enjoyed, and if you can't enjoy this part, at least enjoy those around you.

My journey to finding solid work relationships have been fraught with laughs, betrayals, and terrifying moments. I've found a few close friends and danced with a few enemies. In creative circles, it can be even harder and everything can be taken as an insult. I wasn't lucky enough to live by my friends post-graduate, so I felt very alone in my first few working years. Even though I wasn't going to tell my deep dark secrets to the people at work, I still wanted someone to kick it and have a few drinks with every once in a while. A person who understood a bit of my life and who I could connect with, platonically. I could never really connect with anyone until I took a step back and perfected my approach.

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There's a balance to be had when building your tribe.

While you can luck up and find work friends that turn into soulmates, that story is not fit for all. Befriending and building a relationship with people at work isn't as difficult as it seems. It's not always about networking. The need for personality, humor, and empathy are there as well. On a personal level, your work tribe can keep you motivated and focused in a chaotic environment. On a professional level, they can have an impact on your performance or reputation within the company. This squad influences 40 hours of your life a week. They influence how you feel about what you do, and how you feel about where you work. There's a reason culture company is such a high priority for the current workforce.

Related: Getting the Job Will Be Easier If You Learn These 5 Things Before the Interview

It can be extremely difficult to navigate the workforce, especially if you're just starting out. Everyone seems a bit more experienced or put together, it's all quite intimidating. Here are three things you should strive for when seeking to build your work tribe.

Be Cautious About Conversations With Coworkers

Simply put, nobody has time for failed friendships. Keep that in mind but lead with an open heart. You see these people more than you see your family and friends, however, it doesn't mean they need to know your every vulnerable moment. Finding common areas of struggle is one thing, but don't overdo it. The last thing you want is for a simple rant to circle the gossip mill as the thoughts of a contentious coworker. You've worked hard to be a respected co-worker, and you don't need to blow it on a lunch conversation gone wrong.

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Don't Fake It Til You Make It

People can sense when you're putting on airs. Just because you're at work doesn't mean you can't be the real you. Be authentic. Move slow if you have to. There's no rush. The right sort of people will gravitate to you as you start to make your way. Pay attention to those in your immediate area and what they discuss. Social media can be your best friend, and a great conversation starter. Be genuine with how you feel. Discuss non-work topics, but only if you're 1000 percent comfortable with it.

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Activities Are Key In Work Relationships

If someone invites you into a group event, accept it. When you get an all-staff email about a local weekend festival, ask some co-workers to go with. Don't be afraid to ask. You'd be surprised at how many people are afraid to ask. That initial ask is the risk, it's the step you need out of your comfort zone. Choose activities that align with your interests and passions, that way you'll find out who connects with you on those levels. Once you put the interest out there, the invites will stroll in.

Whereas your personal tribe is there in times of need, this tribe should be there in times of stress.

Your work tribe should represent the different aspirations you have for your career, and help you to push for each of them. They should be your Yoda on a long day, your cheerleader before a big meeting, your after-work drinking buddy on a Friday. And who knows, you might look up one day and see them standing next to you at your wedding.

Featured image by Getty Images.

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When I was ten, my Sunday school teacher put on a brief performance in class that included some of the boys standing in front of the classroom while she stood in front of them holding a heart shaped box of chocolate. One by one, she tells each boy to come and bite a piece of candy and then place the remainder back into the box. After the last boy, she gave the box of now mangled chocolate over to the other Sunday school teacher — who happened to be her real husband — who made a comically puzzled face. She told us that the lesson to be gleaned from this was that if you give your heart away to too many people, once you find “the one,” that your heart would be too damaged. The lesson wasn’t explicitly about sex but the implication was clearly present.

That memory came back to me after a flier went viral last week, advertising an abstinence event titled The Close Your Legs Tour with the specific target demo of teen girls came across my Twitter timeline. The event was met with derision online. Writer, artist, and professor Ashon Crawley said: “We have to refuse shame. it is not yours to hold. legs open or not.” Writer and theologian Candice Marie Benbow said on her Twitter: “Any event where 12-17-year-old girls are being told to ‘keep their legs closed’ is a space where purity culture is being reinforced.”

“Purity culture,” as Benbow referenced, is a culture that teaches primarily girls and women that their value is to be found in their ability to stay chaste and “pure”–as in, non-sexual–for both God and their future husbands.

I grew up in an explicitly evangelical house and church, where I was taught virginity was the best gift a girl can hold on to until she got married. I fortunately never wore a purity ring or had a ceremony where I promised my father I wouldn’t have pre-marital sex. I certainly never even thought of having my hymen examined and the certificate handed over to my father on my wedding day as “proof” that I kept my promise. But the culture was always present. A few years after that chocolate-flavored indoctrination, I was introduced to the fabled car anecdote. “Boys don’t like girls who have been test-driven,” as it goes.

And I believed it for a long time. That to be loved and to be desired by men, it was only right for me to deny myself my own basic human desires, in the hopes of one day meeting a man that would fill all of my fantasies — romantically and sexually. Even if it meant denying my queerness, or even if it meant ignoring how being the only Black and fat girl in a predominantly white Christian space often had me watch all the white girls have their first boyfriends while I didn’t. Something they don’t tell you about purity culture – and that it took me years to learn and unlearn myself – is that there are bodies that are deemed inherently sinful and vulgar. That purity is about the desire to see girls and women shrink themselves, make themselves meek for men.

Purity culture isn’t unlike rape culture which tells young girls in so many ways that their worth can only be found through their bodies. Whether it be through promiscuity or chastity, young girls are instructed on what to do with their bodies before they’ve had time to figure themselves out, separate from a patriarchal lens. That their needs are secondary to that of the men and boys in their lives.

It took me a while —after leaving the church and unlearning the toxic ideals around purity culture rooted in anti-Blackness, fatphobia, heteropatriarchy, and queerphobia — to embrace my body, my sexuality, and my queerness as something that was not only not sinful or dirty, but actually in line with the vision God has over my life. Our bodies don't stop being our temples depending on who we do or who we don’t let in, and our worth isn’t dependent on the width of our legs at any given point.

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