<![CDATA[People often ask me why I study and write about friendship in the workplace. The importance of friendship outside of the workplace has been written about extensively since the time of Aristotle. David Brooks of the New York Times recently agreed with the ancient writers that friendships bring out our better selves, radiating social and political benefits that we all need. A number of scholars have written about the way adult women’s friendships outside of work help us stay upright in the face of life’s challenges. Jean Baker Miller and Irene Pierce Stiver wrote about the benefits to women’s mental and emotional health that result from having the support of other women in the workplace. Yet many of my coaching clients have lost touch with their old friends. The demands of work and family do not leave time for friends outside of work. The pressures of advancing in their careers make them feel they need to keep some distance from other women at work with whom they may be competing for promotions, or whom they may supervise one day. I’ve heard countless stories about two women being friends as peers, but when one gets promoted, the friendship ends because they don’t know how to handle the change. I think we need strong friendships at work, and I believe we can build them and maintain them, even as we compete for promotions and become each other’s bosses. The key is that we need to learn how to talk about and negotiate our expectations of each other as our roles shift and change—both inside and outside of work. Many women have difficulty with these conversations, but talking gets easier with practice. Why do we need friendships at work?
- To test out ideas and get feedback we trust
- For sanity checks when confusing situations arise at work
- To vent frustrations so we can release them and move on
- To celebrate our successes
- To know who we can count on for help in a crisis
- To speak up for each other and to help get our voices heard in meetings
- To get work done in an enjoyable atmosphere
- To prop each other up when times are hard—both inside and outside of work
1 thought on “Why We Need Friends at Work”
One reason I need women’s friendship at work is because it is so often the case that I cannot be my true, full and authentic self when I am at work. As a consultant, this depends on where I am working. But when I was in-house at a high-tech company, as a younger woman, I had to dress up and leave a lot of my thoughts and feelings at the door. The credibility curve is steep for a young woman at work.
Sometimes I needed someone I could let down my hair with, bemyself with, who also understood the work situation. That was never a man. Not that I would be against that – but it just never was. Men do not have the same steep curve at work. They are competent until proven otherwise (and that takes a LOT of proof). Young women are assumed to be less competent until they prove otherwise – and that is a tough road.
I did this with my boss for years (who was a woman). And then she did some things that really undercut our trust and friendship.
So – I know what you are talking about, Anne!