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Work relationships and friendships

about harry from elev8

Here it goes….a first write up. Taking this into consideration I thought I wouldn’t go too heavy but actually go a little deep. 

Relationships are the key to success in all walks in life – in your home, in your local pub, in school and in the office. I’ve often been asked ‘Am I actually friends with people I have worked with?’ and ‘How do I manage to maintain close relationships with so many colleagues (past and present)?.’

These are excellent questions and actually quite complex to think about and answer. Many people have the view to separate your work and social life, which I fully understand but also find it hard to. This is because, personally, work is my life and especially when working in a startup you speak and meet people so frequently and you spend so much time together that you can’t help but become close. 

So ‘Am I actually friends with people I have worked with’? Yes. I had colleagues from Deliveroo attend my wedding and I still speak to those people today. We have a business and professional relationship, as that’s where our friendship started, but we’re able to speak on the phone, grab a drink and have a reason to stay in touch, other than ‘how did you do against last month’s target?’

Managing close relationships with colleagues can be hard. This is often the case pending yours and their position, as if you directly manage that person or vice versa, when difficult discussions arise, communications can be difficult. Nobody wants to show disgruntlement to a ‘friend’, as you don’t want to aggravate a friendship and create awkwardness.  

Often within businesses, you build bonds and gravitate to people who you could essentially ‘go to the pub with’. This can lead to you not building relationships with the right people who can actually support your career and success within your role.  

And how do I maintain lots of relationships? The most important thing I do is just make time for people. Even if that’s a 5 minute call every now and then or a quick whatsapp message, it doesn’t cost a lot, literally or in time to actually maintain a relationship, you just need to make the effort and I always do. If you can get that face to facetime in too, even better, but don’t be scared to just reach out to people. Unless you’ve been a pain….why wouldn’t someone want to say hi back and just hear how you’re doing!? 

Self reflection & learnings :

I think in the earlier days of my career, I didn’t do a great job of separating the differences of being friends with someone in and out of the office. I’ve certainly got a lot better at it and it has had a great impact on my management and leadership skills. I found people respected me more and knew me better for it. There are so many learnings from over the years but here’s my top 5 :

  1. Consider where the relationship started : when I’ve had professional discussions with friends, I’ve found that we have had an already established, very strong foundation and we have known how to manage each other. This has made it easier to support one another and be upfront to ask questions and raise challenges. I haven’t had the experience of a friendship taking a turn for the worst through business but it does happen – If you sense it happening, try and move away from your business relationship quickly as your friendship is more important. 

  1. Manage expectations : Depending on the friendship you may find it hard to have difficult discussions so it’s vital that before entering a professional relationship, that you outline what you expect and why, which will make it easier to address topics that need discussing. If you feel that your relationship with a colleague is being overpowered by a friendship the best thing to do is simply address it and quickly – nip it in the bud. Let that person know that you’re worried about a couple of things and that you’re aware of your closeness, but first and foremost – you both have a job to do and here’s what you both need to expect from one another and achieve together.

  1. Not every friend is a potential colleague and vice versa : Sit back for a moment and think about your closest friends – could you work with them all!? Can you talk business, make decisions or have them manage you? I doubt it….Then think about all your colleagues – would you invite them all on your next holiday? I also doubt it. This doesn’t mean you don’t like your colleagues. The purpose of your colleague is to help the organisation you are part of and pending your role, they’re there to work with you to generate success. They aren’t there for you to have another seat at your next birthday.  Nobody loves or is friends with every colleague and it’s not possible. When looking at Manchester United down the years, many players never got along off the pitch, but Sir Alex Ferguson made sure that on the pitch, business was business and that they fought for each other week in week out. The rest is history….

  1. Learn from everyone : It is easy to stick within a certain group at work, socially and professionally. I found that I ended up learning a lot more and enjoyed spending time with people that weren’t my ‘traditional social group’.

  1. Bring yourself to work : People will buy into you, not who you are trying to be. Be genuine and authentic with who you are and how you conduct yourself as people will see through the BS. 

One last thing – a principle that I will always go by : ‘Don’t hire who you can’t fire’. I will never hire a friend into a role, as I don’t want to put myself in that situation if things don’t work out.

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