Getting Too Friendly At Work


I’ve never been too social in my working environments because I think it makes getting the work done more of a challenge when you are working with and for your friends. Managers that make friendships with staff often will not hold their friends as accountable or they show obvious favoritism. And then there is the too friendly relationships that don’t belong in the work environment, but because things went too far sometime in the past, problems arise that need not exist.

Yet advocates of lunches with others at work, shopping at lunch time, or happy hour after work all point to the team building concept at work. “Friends will support friends” and other nonsense is used as excuses for beginning down a path that can go south with even the best of intentions.

Now although I was never really social with my co-workers, I created working relationships that fostered respect for each other’s abilities and talents. I’ve supported people with their career goals years after we stopped working together and I have been shocked when people said they would work with me again in a heartbeat because I treated people as professionals while being supportive.

So when I began a consulting career with a business partner 16 years ago, we both thought our “friends” would be there to support us. Both of us had developed a list of decision makers that we had worked with and would surely hire us as contractors to support our new business. We were only too surprised after a couple of years to realize not a single client we had was someone we had worked for in the past. Not a single “friend” supported us.

We broke up the business partnership after two years because we were not making enough to live on. I went on as a solo consultant for 13 more years with just enough success to keep my head above water, but still the list of “friends” did nothing to help.

I will admit that HR & Training may not be the most exciting sport to support, so a year ago I decided to transition into working as a travel agent. Thinking that my friends and family all take vacations I expected support from many of them as I launched this new career. But once again I am the one that is surprised that my clients all began as complete strangers. Not a single “friend” or past associate has lifted a finger to shop for their next vacation.

This is not to say that those folks on LinkedIn & Facebook don’t still reach out to me for help in their own worlds. Whether it is an endorsement, recommendation, referral or their extra pair of eyes in the marketplace, my “friends” don’t hesitate to let me know when they need my help.  I mean my family has always thought of me as their personal ATM for time and money and still do.  But it is the 1000+ working relationships turning away that has me wondering if I should have made different kinds of friends in the work environment.


How the Reward can make or break the Recognition!

ashipI used to train a lot of management workshops that asserted that the reward doesn’t mean as much as the effort taken to actually recognize an employee. As long as the reward fits the value of the effort you are recognizing, this is an assertion that normally stands up, but not always.

In the area of sales, you can often prompt rapid effort from your sales team by holding up a carrot if certain criteria are met, and if the carrot is something people want they will often over achieve just to get the reward.

It is important to note that value is in the eye of the receiver, not the giver. You as the manager might think that a weekend for two at the local motel with a cash bonus of $25 for food is a winning offer, but unless your employees agree, they are not apt to put in any extra effort.


The dollar amount doesn’t make the reward automatically valuable:

So a sales manager has been used to popping a $1000 to his team members when they meet what appear to be more than stretch goals. He told me that initially it got some people to push hard because they all seemed to have an idea of how to spend the money. But over time, he noticed either people where putting the money in savings, or paying off a bill. Since this was not too exciting, the energy to earn the bonus was losing steam and the after effect was very short lived motivation.

I asked him to consider booking a 3-day cruise from one of two ships in our local port of Long Beach, and as a Travel Agent, I would work with him to pay for the cruise, the gratuities and include any on board spending dollars but not to exceed $1000. But even though the dollar amount was the same, he should raise the bar for the goal to win. (Note, the cruise would need to be taken within the next 3 months at a date that worked best for the winner.)

Since last quarter he had no one that won the bonus, he was eager to try something new.

Well, he cut the time from 3 months to 2 months to win a cruise, and set no limit on how many could win. He also upped the sales goal 20%. Guess what happened? Yes, five employees pulled it off! And because they all took their cruise at different times, each time they returned to work the buzz started again about what a great time they had. Not only is this team eager for the next contest, they also got a needed break from work which rejuvenated them too!

Just an idea for how using the right reward can make all the difference. If you want to give it a try, email me at or stop by and explore the possibilities!

NOTE:  Cruise Pricing varies throughout the year.  For reward purposes, always set a limit for what you will pay up to and the remainder is on the employee.