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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

3 Things You'll Only Understand if You Have a Work Wife (or Husband)

work pals bonding

Long before the term “work wife” was coined, I had one in Nina, my very first cube-mate at my very first job in NYC. As editorial assistants at a textbook publishing company, where neither of us felt particularly inspired, Nina and I needed each other to get through the tedious tasks of the day. Whenever Nina was out of office, I missed her terribly, and those days, especially, dragged on.

Nina and I confided in each other about professional matters, consulted with one another on which workplace gossip was true and which was rumored, and opened up about our personal relationships. I didn’t pretend that I wasn’t bothered by my remote editor’s inability to ever make a phone meeting on time, and Nina didn’t hide the fact that her manager’s condescension rattled her.

Eventually, Nina left the company in a career transition of sorts, and while I was happy for her, I felt sorry for myself. How would I ever survive without my work buddy?

Because I wasn’t doing anything close to work I found stimulating, it helped to have Nina in the next cube over, but I’d have valued our rapport regardless of the job. She was, as Rachel Wilkerson Miller said it succinctly via an incredible work-wife feature on BuzzFeed, “Someone whose friendship you would treasure anyway, but also the only reason you don’t hate your job on the worst days, and a big part of the reason your love your job on the best ones.”

As anyone who’s been in this relationship knows, it isn’t just for people who are in soul-crushing jobs. You can have the best job in the world, and an office spouse will still make it better.

Here’s why:

1. She Has Your Back

In more ways than you ever thought possible. Running late on bagel Friday? On an important call when the company-wide office hour starts and the good booze is brought out? She’ll butter your bagel, pour you a glass of the aged whiskey, and remind you not to leave your leftovers in the fridge over the weekend.

But, more than that, your best work bud will support you when the going gets rough and when you deserve a pat on the back for a job well done. You may never get Jess in accounting to answer your emails without two separate follow-ups, but you will have someone who’ll happily let you kvetch about it and agree that the woman could stand to take a course in Email Etiquette 101. When your teammate gets the promotion you were vying for, your work spouse will console you and remind you of all the reasons you’re awesome. And when you finally get the raise you deserve, he’ll be the first person to celebrate with you—whether it’s with a coffee or a beer. Your roommate or significant other may patiently listen to a recap of your workday, but it’s your knowing work wife who’ll share in your amusement or bewilderment.

2. He Censors You (When Needed)

Have you ever had a colleague or client (or even your supervisor) piss you off so much that you typed an email expressing your frustration and were about to press send when you decided a gut check was in order? Saving the draft, you loop your work BFF in and ask her opinion. Nine times out of 10, the messages we type when we’re frustrated or annoyed have a tendency to not reflect our proudest moments. Save yourself the agony of sending and living with the inevitable regret. Even if you think your email is tactful and polite, if it’s composed in the heat of the moment, your best bet is to run it by your trusted colleague, who’ll probably advise you to take a deep breath and delete it or at least revise it after you’ve had a chance to cool off.

While no one likes the idea of being censored, it’s a far better scenario than putting your foot in your mouth. The passive-aggressive tweet basically bad-mouthing a certain company policy? Having your work husband swoop in and demand that you take it down or risk getting fired will save you major awkwardness at the very least—and your job at the very most.

3. She Lets You Be Real

It’s great to feel like you can be yourself around your boss and with the colleagues in your department, but more often than not, in an an effort to be your professional self, you’re probably holding back some amount of silly. If you have a work wife however, all bets are off. Want to vent about your really dysfunctional family? Have a quick “WTF” moment over your ex’s engagement status on Facebook? Stress about the fact that you’re way behind on your student loan payments? You might have the coolest, most understanding and approachable boss in the world, but that doesn’t mean you want to divulge every personal detail of your life.

Plus, while it’s important that you’re honest with your manager and colleagues you work closely with, you’re not exactly going to be 100% up front about everything. When a recruiter contacts you on LinkedIn regarding an opportunity worth exploring, you’ll want to find your best work pal to help you come up with a strategy for how best to respond. This obviously isn’t the kind of thing you want to share with just anyone in the office.

It’s often the little things that make a difference when you’re working a lot of hours, are stressing about a big project, or are nervous about a new role. Being friendly with a variety of people within your organization is nothing to sneeze at, but until you’ve had a work wife, you don’t know what your professional life is missing.