Thought Leadership Blog

The HRS Thought Leadership Blog delivers validated findings, visionary perspectives and op/ed commentaries related to HR, Leadership, Organizational Development and Employment Law. To enjoy the full volume of available articles, please enter topic keywords in the search box to explore our body of work. Articles are regularly presented by the HRS team and guest experts.

Frienemies at Work?

"Friendship" is risky in the work environment. Several years back I worked with our local Fox affiliate to create a television news piece "Dating in the Workplace," and many of the same rules apply. Bias, competition and goal conflicts enter the relationship. Friendship may be an illusion from the start, a "power play" or public relations initiative. The healthiest "social" friendships seem to emerge between employees who lack career hope and ambition, bonded in their contentment with the status quo, probably snickering at those "playing the game" to climb the corporate ladder. Such predictable alliances are noticeable by management, branding all participants as guilty by association, injured in upward mobility simply because of their chosen "friendships."

During 30 years of study, I’ve watched people accept employment with large companies to "make friends." Similarly, I’ve watched people strictly avoid friendships at work. As the rules for friendship and teamwork can differ dramatically, they may present conflict. With multiple definitions and interpretations of "friendship," complexity abounds. Typically, this arrangement of personal camaraderie, without boundaries or specific goals, hinders upward mobility in the organization if not funneled properly into teamwork and alignment with corporate goals. Too often friends lateral in the organization can betray one another, selling out for upward mobility. Both vertical and lateral friendships are risky.  Healthy employment choices are those made for the right reasons, bringing appropriate expectations. 


Jessica Ollenburg - Saturday, August 16, 2008