She couldn’t stop crying.
Every time she looked at me, I could see her eyes welling up, and she would have to take a minute to compose herself. Luckily for me, these were those strange “happy sad” tears.
It was my last shift at a hotel I had given the previous three years of my life to. Hundreds of 5:30 a.m. starts, long days, late finishes, and all the difficulties associated with shit jobs and shit pay coming to an end so I could finally pursue my business full-time. And it was clear from my colleagues’ reaction that I was going to be sorely missed.
As the clock ticked toward my finish time, I started to make the rounds. Despite being part of the Food & Beverage team, I had great friends in every department. I said my goodbyes to the reception staff and the Spa staff and had a last laugh with the Maintenance department. I even said my goodbyes to the Filipino cleaning staff, who were some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. I then said goodbye to my own team and my closest colleague—her tears were in full flow now. Finally, I entered the kitchen, and to my surprise, they had all lined up — my very own guard of honor. I hugged my way down the line, tears running down my cheeks until the final chef left me with parting words only he could muster: “You’re a great cunt. We’ll miss you.”
With a final handshake, I was out into the fresh air, throwing my uniform in the bin (to spite the HR department — you can’t make friends with everybody) and heading straight to the bar to celebrate my freedom, all the while processing the emotions of leaving so many good friends behind.
This experience wasn’t unusual for me. In every position I’ve held, whether it’s part-time, full-time, or on a casual basis, I’ve always made friends and left as a well-respected, well-liked guy.
And, with these basic steps of being a good person and a good worker, you can do the same.
Roll Up Your Sleeves At Every Chance
If you want to make friends with those you work alongside, you have to show them you’re willing to work hard.
I’ve seen many people come into a team and try to assert their personality and immediately start acting like they’ve been here all along. That shit doesn’t fly. What you’re co-workers really want to see is if you’re willing to roll your sleeves up and get dirty. You can be the funniest, most outgoing person in the room, but if you can’t be counted on to get the job done — or worse, you make the job of other’s harder — you will quickly lose your charm.
I still work on and off with the first-ever manager I worked under, 10 years later. Why? My work ethic put me in a good light, and after I earned her respect, we formed a bond that has lasted to this day.
When you first start out in a job, take your time. By all means, get to know people and make steps towards friendships, but keep your focus on your work ethic and show those around you that you’re there to be a reliable part of the team first and a friend after.
Respect The Hierarchy At Work
“Listen, this is above your pay-grade, son.”
A previous head-chef would say this to me whenever I felt like airing my opinion on a matter. And while he would say it with a cheeky grin across his face, he meant it.
When you work in a hierarchy, it’s important to know where you stand. It’s even more vital that you respect that chain of command. I’m not saying in any way that you put up with bullshit or any severe issues that cross the line — you need to report these — but in the day-to-day working of the job, understand where you sit in the pyramid and do your best to keep in line.
Following this rule has helped me make friends with staff at all levels, from the General Manager right down to the dishwasher. When you enter a workplace, know your position, understand the boundaries that come with that, and do your best to respect them. Others will come to appreciate it and soon appreciate you.
Treat People Like People
I’ve worked under countless managers and supervisors that treated the staff below them like shit for no reason other than we wore the uniform and they wore the shirt. I’ve had so-called friends who worked alongside me change overnight after accepting a promotion.
They quickly left the friend zone.
To make friends in the workplace, you need to treat people like people and not just cogs in the machine. Show those you work with the same pleasantries and dignity you expect to be shown by them. Everything in the workplace is give and take, and making friends is no different. And please, if you accept a promotion, don’t sacrifice your friendships for the job.
Take The Job Seriously
In a previous hotel job, the entire staff roster — well over 150 people — was called in for an emergency meeting. As we gathered in the conference room, some head office aficionado turned up. Never a good sign. A nervous air crept into the room.
He proceeded to drop a bombshell: The place was being closed in a few months to be demolished. As he said the words, he couldn’t look at anybody. The silence that followed was suffocating, only interrupted by the occasional sobbing. The news crushed people. Some had worked there all their lives and had planned to stay until their retirement. The pain etched on their faces has stayed with me to this day.
At that moment, I realized that no matter what level you deem the job to be, it means everything to some people. It might have only been part-time work for me, but for others, it was their life.
When you enter a new workplace, be mindful of those you work alongside. We all want different things in life. We’ve all been dealt different hands and circumstances.
The least you can do is take the job seriously and show other people that it means something to you.
Whatever workplace you end up in, no matter what level of job it is, there’s an opportunity to make some of the best friendships in your life. But you’ve got to roll up your sleeves and show some respect.
Focus on working hard and following the basic principles of being a good person and an equally good coworker and the rest will take care itself.
Because, as my colleague used to say, “we’ve got enough assholes in here already.”