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The hill I will die on ....friendships at work

There may be no other topic more important (and divisive) to me than developing friendships at work.

Warning: this might be uncomfortable for some of you😉

Let’s frame up the existing debate.

A. We should not be friends with our coworkers and definitely not our direct reports. We have to separate business from personal.


B. We encourage friendships at work because it builds a better company.

Let’s cut straight to it…..A is ridiculous.

Real friendships at work have no downside. But there are some very important ‘rules’ to play by:

1. Friendships require honesty and transparency

2. Most people confuse friendship with ‘liking someone and hanging out.’

3. Real friendships appreciate professional behavior

4. Real friendships require integrity all the time

It’s easiest to make my point by going straight to people’s biggest fear.

What if I have to fire someone I’m friends with?

Let’s reverse engineer this.

If someone that I genuinely care about is about to be terminated then the conversation will go like this:

“Friend, you know all those conversations we’ve had about not meeting expectations?

It’s time to move on from this role.

How can I help you transition?”

The conversation goes like this because I care deeply about this person and I have had MANY frank conversations trying to make things work before we get to this place. We are both experts at what’s going on. We both understand what’s at stake. We both value our friendship and know that it has nothing to do with the appropriateness of this role at this time.

To arrive at this place, I must value this person so much that I am willing to risk my relationship with him or her to make sure they are not working in a job they are ill suited for.

I will hustle hard to help. And I will be radically honest when I need to be. That’s how I show up for a friend.

Real friendships also create positive support systems. If I truly care about you, I do not want you to do anything unhealthy, career jeopardizing or inappropriate. I want to see you succeed, challenge yourself and be a role model for others.

Now let me ask you….are you that intentional with your friends? If you were, what kind of relationship could you have?

These types of relationships are lifechanging both personally and professionally. So I encourage you to make friends at work. Real friends.

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