In English, Workplace

I don’t have time to hang out. How do I maintain a working relationship without looking like a leech?

You’ve probably met a ‘leech’ at work. Somebody who is nice to you and will talk to you only when they need something from you. Some call them fair-weather friends. Some others went as far as calling them ‘parasites’ because they are the only ones benefiting from a relationship.

To be honest, most people don’t want to be a leech. At least not on purpose. On the other hand, with so many things to do and so little time to socialize, you cannot escape the fact that there are people who you will only talk to when you need something from them.

So how can you stay on good terms with people who you rarely talk to?

1. When you interact with them, ask questions to get to know them. You can use a lot of topics to start a conversation. Let’s say you are discussing a project with a colleague and you see some pictures of kids on his desk. Ask him about the kids in the photos. Are they his children? How old are they? What are their names? What do they like?

Let’s say she’s just back from a two-week holiday. Invite her to talk about it. How was their vacation? Where did they go? Anything fun? Or, you can ask work-related questions. How are they doing with their projects? How are they progressing?

2. Follow up on what you learned about them. For example,

  • When you went to Claire for her help, you got to talking and you learned she had kids in high school. The next time you see her in the pantry, you can ask about how her kids are holding up in last exams.
  • Bob is a proud owner of a daschund. You know this because there are pictures of Sparky, his dog, everywhere in his cubicle, and because he spent 10 minutes telling you about Sparky’s favorite food. At the next meeting with him, you can bring a treat for Sparky.
  • Matt is fan of running. He’s been in more races than you can count on all fingers and toes of yours and of your family’s combined. When you see a friend posted about a running event on his social media, you can ask Matt about it. “Hey Matt, my friend signed up for this race. Have you heard about it?”

Maybe all the time you have to interact with your co-workers is only during work hours, and only work-related. Make that little time count. Ask questions, and be interested in their lives. In turn, they will be interested in you.

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

Dale Carnegie, “How to Win Friends and Influence People”