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.