What is a Co-Worker?

Mary McMahon

Co-workers, or coworkers, are people who share a workplace with each other. The study of employee dynamics has interested many psychologists, since relationships between people who work together can get quite interesting and very complex. Many people deal with co-workers on a daily basis, because they work for companies with multiple employees.

Coworkers are workplace peers who have equal status or positions.
Coworkers are workplace peers who have equal status or positions.

Many people like to distinguish between a co-worker and a subordinate or supervisor, considering the first as a colleague of the same status, rather than someone higher or lower on the company food chain. Co-workers may hold similar or comparable positions, and they often have similar levels of power and authority in an organization. This sets them apart from supervisors, who can issue directives, and subordinates, who take orders. Many people hope that their equal standing with their colleagues ensures equal treatment and a good working relationship.

Friendships may be established among co-workers.
Friendships may be established among co-workers.

Because co-workers often work together in enclosed spaces for long hours, they may establish friendships that can be carried on outside the workplace. Other people may prefer to remain more aloof, focusing on being polite but not necessarily friendly with those they work with to clearly differentiate between work and personal life. These enclosed spaces can also skew the relationship in the opposite direction; some people have extremely adversarial relationships with their colleagues.

People may spend time after work hanging out with co-workers.
People may spend time after work hanging out with co-workers.

Many people are familiar with the concept of the annoying or obnoxious co-worker, as a casual glance at the employment and careers section of a bookstore indicates. Especially in a small office, it can be challenging to work with difficult personalities, leading some people to seek professional advice on handling their colleagues and office disputes. Many authorities recommend clear, open communication between people who share a workplace, to ensure that small problems are quickly resolved before they can turn into major issues. It's also a good idea for people who are applying for a job to look at the workplace to test the employee dynamics and to see how they might fit in.

Gossiping about co-workers should be avoided.
Gossiping about co-workers should be avoided.

When interacting with co-workers, employees should try to remember that the work environment is a unique place, and that some people may feel uncomfortable with excessive friendliness, politics, or the sharing of personal information. Co-workers can also turn on each other, especially when competition for a promotion gets fierce. It is a good idea for workers to refrain from gossiping about other people in your workplace, no matter how tempting it may be. By keeping relationships professional and neutral, employees can help prevent potential accusations of harassment or inappropriate behavior.

Some co-workers establish supportive friendships outside of the office.
Some co-workers establish supportive friendships outside of the office.

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Discussion Comments


I am trying to find a way to tactfully separate myself from my co-workers, who would spend every break and lunch hour with me if given the opportunity. My house is close to work for a reason - so that I can go home at lunch, kiss my cats, and put my feet up. Should I feel guilty?


I agree with you. Office gossip is detrimental to all co-workers because it takes the focus off the productivity and places it on a frivolous bit of information regarding a co-worker that might not even be true.

Its okay to form friendships in the workplace, but respect should be universally offered to all co-workers regardless of your feeling toward them. Engaging in office gossip disrespects your co-workers and should be avoided. Peace and harmony are much more important than the latest gossip.


Anon13228- I agree with you. I just want to add that not giving in to office gossip and relating to co-workers in a respectful manner is best.

Most of the problems in a workplace involve gossip. If the coworkers know that you do not gossip, they will not tell you any of the juicy details but you will also never get caught up in office drama.

By simply offering a phrase such as, “I am sorry but I prefer to discuss Mary in her presence and feel a bit uncomfortable doing so with out her here.” Such a statement projects the value that you do not partake in office gossip, so coworkers will eventually appreciate that about you because they often view this stance as a form of loyalty.


Yes a person who shares the workplace with you is called co worker that's why we need to maintain a healthy relationship with our co workers. Most of time you share lots of things with each other. Even lots of websites offers greeting cards for co workers.

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