You’re in a bar with your friend, wine in hand when she asks, “How’s work going?” Hopefully you’ll tell her everything is hunky dory and get down to the pressing business of discussing MasterChef. But how often do you get into a lengthy ramble about your long working hours or how you’re sure the email from your boss means she thinks you’re rubbish? Friends are great for sharing our career hopes and fears with, but how do we tread the line between useful shop talk and job-obsessed bore?
It’s OK to complain in moderation
Psychologists say our tendency to complain evolves from our ancestors who cried out a warning when something threatened the tribe – so having a bit of a moan if you’re overlooked for a project makes you feel validated. But a word of warning: complain too much and you could end up feeling a whole lot worse about the situation, according to a study from the University of Missouri. Psychologists found that teenage girls who vented their frustrations to their friends were more likely to develop depression and anxiety – and the study’s authors say the same is true of adult women. “Don’t get caught in a negative cycle of complaining about work because it doesn’t actually change anything,” says wellbeing consultant Mark Bradley. “Maybe have a rule that you’ll talk about work for a short time but make sure you talk about other subjects, too.”
You don’t need to do your friend’s job
"When your friend’s in a work-related pickle don’t assume you need to come up with the solution," says Dr Helen Fisher, business psychologist with Clinical Partners. “Help her come up with the answer herself by asking good, open-ended questions about what she wants the outcome to be and how she can get there,” she says.
Tread carefully with money talk
Your best friend knows your darkest secrets (that Lionel Richie fixation), yet discussing money with her still feels like a social taboo. A recent study found that for a quarter of us, money is off the conversational menu. “If you and your friends feel comfortable talking about money then great, but if there’s a big disparity between your salaries, and you earn more than she does, then use some tact and don’t carp on about how hard up you are,” says Dr Fisher.
Use your male and female friends differently
Men are great for discussing the nuts and bolts of your job with, such as the projects you’re working on, while we often rely on our girlfriends for talking about office relations. “Men tend to require factual signposts in a conversation because they get emotion from stories, whereas women are more nurturing and will be better at empathising with the emotions of your workplace,” says Mark.