Friends at Work are Far and Few Between

not a friend

When I look at the many people I am connected to in professional social networks like LinkedIn, I am sometimes amazed at how few I could call a friend. Over our professional careers we meet and work with a ton of people, but very few earn the status of friend.

I define a friend I can trust with very confidential information. I define a friend as someone I support and they support me with endeavors we each are working on outside of work. And maybe this is too obvious, but I also define a friend as someone who has my back and would never stab me in that back.

Maybe you have a different way to define friends, and I encourage you to write down your definition so it doesn’t shift based on emotion. Then compare your definition to the people in your network. My guess is you will have a markedly smaller list of friends compared to the massive list of contacts and associates.


Why am I talking about this issue?

I have recently experienced challenges with people I thought were friends. These were people I have supported, and yet when I need them to support me I have been confronted with the reality they are nowhere to be found. And this is 100% my fault to expect an equal Quid Pro Quo from people I support.

I have a need, something that made me a valuable asset as a training professional, to help others. So I am always finding ways to support the goals of others. Yet very few people see the need to return the favor. I am writing this blog to spare you some of the heartache I have felt by suggesting you never expect anything in return for the support you give.

I’m also keeping a better record of those who support my efforts, so that my time is available to help them first. People that come to me for help in getting a job, a referral, a free bit of consulting (I’d be rich if I’d gotten paid for all the free time) no longer get my services first. Frankly I’m tired of being used and getting nothing in return from so many folks.

Friends, like I have said, never stab you in the back. But a piece of advice for those that do stab you is not to seek revenge. It is hurtful I agree. But holding that hurt inside, or worse seeking revenge is by far more damaging. Turning away and letting God deal with the injustice is a much better solution.

Now while I don’t believe I have included my faith in any previous blog, this is one area where I can testify to the many opportunities I have been given to seek revenge for an injustice from someone I thought to be a friend or associate that suffered a worse outcome than anything I could have ever done because I turned it over to God.

So for the dozen or so people that showed their true stripes this week, I forgive you. But for the record, you are also being moved off the official friends list for good.


YES, I would still like a full time job!


For the past year I have been devoting a lot of time to building a new travel business I can run in my retirement years, but I have not given up my desire to continue HR & Training Consulting work, or even a full time gig for the right opportunity.

I was taken aback last week when I recruiter emailed me asking me if I was still interested working full time. As a consultant for the past 12 years, I had given up hope that a company could see the value in the diverse experience consulting work provides. Most recruiters are looking for only people currently working in a full time role, so this call was a pleasant surprise.

I spoke with the recruiter yesterday, and found out more about the role and the company. The role will not be that challenging, but I had also seen this role open on and off for the past several years. It just begged the question as to why no one was staying very long. The answer was that the management team was challenging to work with, but the recruiter was aware of a previous management team I had worked with once in my past. She felt that experience told her I could handle this team.

I laughed out loud. Honestly, the group in my past she was referring to was quite a challenge to say the least, and I had survived. I also learned a great deal how to work with people like this and agreed to look at this opportunity.

So while I have the requisite professional experience for this role, and a hundred others for that matter, I am usually summarily dismissed from a search or an application because I am not currently full time. “Hear Ye, Hear Ye” – That is a fatal recruiting error in finding the best talent. You are missing talent that your management team needs.

Back to the recruiter that I opened with, I was impressed with her ability to read between the lines of my profile/resume. She knows what kind of skills this role needs and there are many people she could call. However, she realized that success means the ability to work with her management team far outweighs the ability to perform the job. With me, she said, she thought I had the ability to be successful on both fronts.

I have researched the management team, and spoke with a person who I know worked for this team and I hope I get an interview.   But in the meantime, YES, I would still love a full time job! Your referrals are appreciated.

You can be a better person if you know what’s going on


Have you ever stopped to realize that you can be a better person if you know what is going on in the lives around you? At work you can interact better with people whether they are your peers, staff, senior managers or customers if you know what each of these people are going through on the job and in their personal life.

This epiphany came to me this morning when I realize the value of a card I sent a client telling them I was thinking about them during a difficult time they are going through. But honestly, if the client had not felt comfortable telling me that their family member was ill, I would never had known, thus a card never would have been sent. I was only able to act because I had information at hand.

I remember managing individual staff that seemed out of it and/or unfocused, and instead of jumping to performance management 101, I focused on the person until I learned the root cause. I often made accommodations to help them through their challenges, but the offset was it allowed me to be a better person as a result.

Too often we have our noses stuck to our phones reading about one thing or another and forget we are getting information we can act on that builds our individual relationships. But the point I am trying to make is having information is the first step. Sometimes it is fed to us through an application and other times we need to seek it out through conversations.

Once we have information, do something with it!

I attended a company picnic recently and met a lot of people. Yet three of them took a little time to have a short conversation with me. I swirled around in my mind the content of those three conversations and a few days later reached out in LinkedIn to invite them to connect. I used the “Note” section to thank one of them for remembering something I tried to do for them at a past company. To another I thanked her for the impact she is personally making on the lives of employees in her division. And to another I offered help to engage his son in an organization he could benefit from and this man wanted him to join. Not only have I improved these three relationships, I did it with some personal impact.

So the next time you are talking with someone, find out something about what is going on in their lives. Then find a way to deepen your relationship with them using what you have discovered.

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.

When Ignorance is Not an Excuse for Bad Behavior


In most workplace environments of any size you will find an employee that just seems to do and say things that the rest of us chock up as bad behavior. Things that can range from mildly offensive, to terminate their employment type of offensives. But what would you do if you found yourself working for a company where everyone on the senior management team seems to be clueless? It’s bad behavior run amok and getting worse each day.

I’ve been wrestling with a situation and company that seems to be infected with foot in their mouth disease. Everything that is said is blindly offensive to a number of what we in the HR world like to call protected classes. I listened to a former employee for over 3 hours who kept detailed notes of his 6 month tenure and was flabbergasted at the level of cluelessness among these players and that they are doing anything wrong. Even when caught, they dig a deeper ditch for themselves trying to explain their previous transgressions as normal.

At the top is a CEO who appears empathetic, and promises to get things worked out, and then does nothing. His leadership style is wait and see, and lacks the will for any kind of confrontation. And in private, he is known as the biggest closet bigot in the company, and he is a minority himself. One lone individual at the C level acts like a well-informed adult with professional behaviors. He sees everything that is going on, but realizes he is only one against the crowd. Rather than affect change, he is seeking new employment.

For those of you that have been reading my blogs for the past several years are probably asking yourself by now where the head of HR is and what are they doing to change things? Sadly, they are grossly incompetent, and often join in the bad behavior. In fact they act as the group leader of the internal gossip club making things worse. While a strong HR Leader would be challenged to turn this management team around, at least a freckle of awareness could be achieved.

This story doesn’t have an ending yet. An attorney has been retained, and an older EEOC complaint that was withdrawn has been reinstated and will be broadened. Things are going to get ugly and costly. I’m perplexed as to whether I should insert myself or stay back and be a spectator.  For those that are thinking that the board should get involved you are correct. In a normal world yes, but this is a puppet board, and every employee is told that management has them wrapped. Say anything to the board and you will get fired. So, now what?


“You Are Too Competent For Us To Hire”


Interviewing with an honest employer rarely happens. And what I mean is that a completely honest employer would be sharing what is really going on in the organization and why they really don’t want to hire you. Having read between the lines often enough, please enjoy the following “honest interview” and maybe it will ease your stress of finding a job by laughing a little today.


So I read a job advertisement recently that I could have written myself for my work experience. It was close to home, stated a salary range that I felt was workable and fair, and the benefits package was quite complete. I was excited about the range of responsibilities and what appeared to be management’s accurate support of the learning function. I noticed I could apply using LinkedIn, so I did. Less than an hour later the recruiter is calling me.

This first conversation was how “well my key words popped on my resume” and she knew immediately I was a great candidate. She read the advertised job description to me, (I wanted to thank her since she no doubt thought I had been struggling with the big words) and asked what questions I had. I responded that it was clear so far, but I would probably have more detailed questions when I met with the hiring manager. She asked me when I could come in to complete a quick personality assessment, (no not online, in person) and the following day I was onsite filling out a two sheet assessment with 10 multiple choice questions.

After the grueling assessment was complete, she graded it in front of me. She was so happy when I got 100% correct, she marked an A+ with a smiley face on my paper! Grinning from ear to ear she said the next step was a panel interview with several line managers since the position supported all divisions they had a stake in finding the right person. That interview was scheduled for the following week.

I arrived for my panel interview dressed in my Sunday best, only to be greeted by 10 people dressed down for what I could only assume was Spring Cleaning Day. I had asked about what dress code was appropriate for this interview and was told a suit and tie was the norm. The group had set up a U-shape of tables and I was put in the middle on a swivel chair so I could easily rotate and face the questioners. Each person had 10 minutes to ask questions, so an hour and forty minutes later we were done. I was told they had 5 minutes left for me to ask a question. I said, “Would each of you answer this one question for me, what is the purpose of the learning function in a corporate environment?” I heard at least 4 of them say, “Huh?” Safe to say this was a very painful exercise for these 10 managers, but insightful for me.

Yet three days later the recruiter called me and said all 10 managers wanted to see me progress to the final interview with the hiring manager. I was pleased and eager to finally talk with my potential manager.

I arrived 10 minutes early. After waiting 20 minutes after the appointment time with no one arriving, I called the recruiter to find out if an emergency had occurred and we should reschedule the interview. She said she would check, and 10 minutes later she arrived with the hiring manager.

We were escorted into a conference room, sat down and that is when I noticed he didn’t have any notes, paper or writing instrument. No phone, tablet, not even my resume. He smiled at me and said, “you were here early, I’m always late to meetings.” I bit my lip and stayed quiet.

He begins, “so you are interviewing for what job?” And that is when it dawned on me he really had no clue what was going on, who I was, and what he was looking for in a job skill set. After answering with the posted title, he launched into what he no doubt thought was a great opener, “tell me about yourself” and I said, “that is a rather long book, is there a particular chapter about me you would like me to start off talking about?” He didn’t, so I chose a rather quick history of accomplishments in the field for this job, and asked if he wanted more detail about any of those points. He said, “wow, you have a lot of experience, is this job a good fit for you?” I responded that the printed job posting had a wide range of requirements and goals which would allow me to stay engaged. I asked him what his top priority was for this role, and he said, “I don’t know yet.”

He then launched into a series of questions that made me realize where his personal development plan would begin. “Are you married? Do you have kids? What ages are your kids? Do you have parents you need to take care of? How old are you? Do you have a wife or a partner? Are you planning to retire soon or do you need to work into your 80’s?” And my all-time favorite, “Can you use the men’s restroom, or are you conflicted? We only have Men’s and Women’s restrooms”.

The following day the HR Director called me, and said the hiring manager thought I was too competent, and that I would cause problems. He wants people that know less than he does, but can still get the job done. I responded that I appreciated the honesty, and empathized with her challenge to fill this role. I then asked if I could share some of the questions he had asked. I finished with an assumption that she knew these were illegal to ask an applicant and she said, “Really?”

After talking with my attorney, she said I definitely won’t have to wait until I’m 80 to retire now! My settlement check should last several decades!


PS – Was this a fictional experience or not? You tell me.