I am in US local government organization. Most of my team are middle-age men who are busy with their families, and are looking towards retirements. They are nice folks to collaborate, talk to at work, and try to help each other out

Now we are getting team-members who are young like me. I'm unsure how to go past saying "hi --- bye"

I would like to make friends with my new teammates, but I'm unsure how.

One lady needed my help few months ago, and I noticed miniature statue of Virgin Mary and Baby Christ on her desk (I believe she is East European Orthodox, kindly correct me).

I was thinking of painting a picture of Virgin Mary and Baby Christ for her to keep.

There is another lady who joined our team few weeks ago, and so far we exchange "hi ---- bye" and also help with certain things (i.e. what is internal website to do "A ....B.....C")

I'm not looking to hang out outside of work because I'm really busy taking care of elderly parent at home and decompressing (by painting and programming) after work and on weekends, but I'm hoping it can get to a point where a group of us go out for lunch maybe once or twice a month at least.

How can I form working friendships with my coworkers so that we can be more friendly at work without any expectation that we hang out after working hours.

  • 1
    So, I'm getting that not all co-workers on your team already have lunch together? What about coffee breaks? Are these ladies interacting with other members on the team already? Or is the rest of the team also just saying hi-bye?
    – Tinkeringbell
    Jul 14, 2018 at 12:46
  • @Tinkeringbell Well, these ladies also say "hi----bye" to rest of team. Same with rest of team. We say "hi----bye" and chit chat during down time at work (depending on who we sit next to). As for coffee breaks, only two gentlemen go for morning coffee because they are part of same free coffee for year program (with purchase of $200 tumbler). I've asked to accompany these two gentlemen in past just for the commradrie. And I've asked if others would like to join us. But other than that, we are our own islands..... Jul 14, 2018 at 12:49
  • Okay... and if I understand correctly, you don't just want to be friendly at work, but actually be friends outside of work as well?
    – Tinkeringbell
    Jul 14, 2018 at 12:51
  • @Tinkeringbell Yes, friendly outside work would be super awesome!!!!! Jul 14, 2018 at 12:51

1 Answer 1


Where I'm from (Netherlands), there's a difference between being friendly co-workers at work, and being friends outside of work as well. The first one isn't that hard to reach, and I believe you're doing fine with it already. You say hi, and bye, and you chit-chat whenever there's a chance. The second stage is going to take some time or may never be reached because you're also depending on the other ladies' wishes with regards to being friends or not.

I still have some friends from my second job, I started that almost 10 years ago and worked there for 4 years. The same goes for my first programming job, the team was awesome and I'm still in regular contact (birthdays, meet-ups) with some of the guys. Yet, I recently joined a new team, and the people there seem to be keeping their jobs and their lives a lot more separated. I don't really think I'll be able to reach the levels of friendship I reached in other jobs. So the first thing I'd advise is to look around, and see if your wishes are actually realistic for the working environment you're in. If people are very professional and keeping their lives and jobs separated, it's at least going to take a lot longer, and a lot more effort, to extend this to where you're friends outside of work.

The first thing that jumps out at me is that you're only saying hi-bye, and have maybe had a few chit-chats with these ladies whenever you sat next to them (if not, your first step is to go do so). A simple 'Hi, how are you today?' is a much better start for a small chit-chat than just saying hi. Or, ask on Monday 'Hi, how was your weekend?'. These small conversation starters will hopefully give you some insight into what the ladies like, what they do with their time. If you're regularly helping them out, you could even ask if they're still ok, or if they need anything. Try to get past the hi-bye, to a level where you regularly chit-chat. An 'I'm going to have lunch, want to come too?' if you're having a designated area to have your lunches (even when brought from home) might be a starter in freeing up some time for chit-chat. make sure that the entire team feels free to come (extend your invitation to all of them instead of a specific person) and make sure to give attention to everyone around you, not just the two ladies.

I wrote this answer on Social Penetration Theory and self-disclosure a while back, and that's what you should be aiming for as well: Whenever there's time for chit-chat, slowly reveal a bit more of yourself, of your personal life, and if people react well (reciprocate), it seems like these ladies are open to more friendship. On that same note: I crochet a lot and have made little gifts for co-workers to reinforce a friendship, but random gifts may be experienced as weird if you're only on the level of saying 'hi-bye'. So, I'd advise against gifting your co-worker a painting, until they know you paint, seen some of your work, and have actually expressed some kind of wish for that sort of gift. Small steps!.

One thing that both of the jobs that landed me real-life friends had in common, was that the entire group of co-workers (even the ones I didn't stay friends with) regularly did stuff outside of the workplace. Things like all going to an amusement park, having dinner after working the story on a holiday, going out and having a few drinks after each sprint. People invited each other to go shopping, neighbourhood events, and to their birthday parties. In such a kind of environment, it's highly likely that if the entire group regularly does stuff, friendships develop and stay. So, to get to the point where you really can be friends with these ladies, try first to include them in the team. Go do something with the entire team, and look at whether or not these ladies are having fun, and seem to want to do this more often.

Just take it slow, don't be hasty. These kinds of relationships outside of work often take a few years to develop, so don't be disappointed if you're still not besties outside of work after 6 months or 2 years. As long as people seem interested in getting to know you better and keeping in contact with you, you're doing okay and can try to build on the friendship a little more each time.

  • 4
    Oh wow, the Netherlands! See how Internet brings us all together! You gave really fantastic advice. I guess it is slow and steady process to reveal a little about yourself at a time. Seems more like an art almost. Have to go proper speed. It's really wonderful you have friends from your old workplace. I guess in this workplace (our team anyways), people seem to separate their home from work, even though people share issues they have with buying a new house, their kids, pets, taxes, etc. Really awesome post on self-disclosure. Jul 14, 2018 at 13:44
  • 2
    Not worth a separate answer, but having lived in the states for 40 years and now in England for 2.5, there's a slight cultural distinction to be made here. Lunch in the states with co-workers is a VERY informal affair, where in Europe it seems to be more intimate, less common, and a bigger deal. It would be much more acceptable to be fairly direct. There isn't a person in the states (in an office) that would think it was weird if you just walked up to them and said "Hey, I really need to get out of here for a bit, care to join me for lunch?" (Aside from other factors)
    – AHamilton
    Jul 16, 2018 at 11:21

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