You don’t have to dislike them, but don’t befriend the people you work with.
Recently, I was very unpleasantly surprised by a friend (at this point I’m using the term very liberally) and his actions around me at work. Turns out that he was talking to my current boss and partner about getting rid of me, while I was on the first vacation I’ve taken in almost 5 years.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a smart, resourceful and tenacious MOFO and I am certainly not taking the position of victim in this whole matter, but finding this out, has shattered any remaining “hope” (see Hope is a four letter word) I had in the whole friends-in-the-workplace scenario.
I’ve always thought that friendship belongs everywhere but at work. The reasons for that abound. Business is about profit. Money is the driving force behind any and all activities realized inside of a company (yes, even the not-for-profit companies you are thinking about) and as such, decisions are made inside of the context of profit and not feelings.
Although it might look that way, this position is not extreme.
I really mean you shouldn’t initiate friendships at work because in 99.9% of cases, you will regret it eventually. Think about it, if you are a manager and you are asked to lay people off, the experience of getting rid of your buddies the week prior to Christmas is going to be anything but festive not to mention you might not get that decorated mug that your friend has all wrapped up and ready for “secret Santa”.
If you happen to be your friend’s underling it might end up being even worse. How can your friend possibly reprimand you? How can he/she be objective when reviewing your work? How can he/she be fair when assigning tasks and bonuses? Even more importantly, how will you be affected by that “little” disagreement you guys had on Saturday over your favorite (and respective) sports teams.
Friendship (or any other type of relationship involving feelings) at work will eventually turn bad and most of us admit that, but the real issue I want to address is how having that type of relationship in the workplace will ultimately render you incapable of reacting adequately as otherwise you could.
In the particular case that inspired this post, if the person in question had not been my “friend” I (being the paranoid, distrustful and hyper-vigilant guy I am) would have taken precautionary measures to prevent the attack I was dealt and would have (more likely) discredited his opinion before my boss long before he could express it.
Since I trusted this individual I didn’t even give a second thought to the possibility of sabotage while I was away. While I fail to see the benefit this person obtained by acting this way (because his advise will ultimately be detrimental to the company) I know it would have never surprised me as it did.
The mere existence of my friendship created expectations of loyalty and fair play that wouldn’t have been there otherwise. I came back from vacation into a situation that I was completely unprepared for and my reaction didn’t help.
I hate the saying but it applies: “Live and learn”.