Working With Our Friends: 3 Objections Debunked
During college, I worked the overnight shift at Hardee’s for a while. Ten o’clock at night until six the next morning several nights a week. It was not a great job. The pay was minimum, the hours were horrible, the management was lousy, and the conditions were demeaning, and the tasks were often nasty.
But I enjoyed it. Not the work itself, of course, and it was only a short time before I’d sought and found a better job to replace it, but the
I worked with my best friend and— as we were ultra-capable and Hardee’s sought to minimize payroll expense— we often worked all night with no other “crew members,” just a manager who rarely came out of the office.
We had a blast. (Ask me in person, some time, to tell you about the burger with everything.)
The job with which I replaced Hardee’s had better hours, better conditions, much better pay, was not demeaning, and required zero nasty tasks. It was a much better job. But I didn’t have fun. Subsequently, that became a discernible pattern.
I noticed that the enjoyment of the various other jobs I’ve had through my life, whether grunt work, sales work, or marketing work, depended much more on who I was working with than what we were actually doing.
When I became self-employed, I adopted the mantra that I only work with my friends; I profit; and I have fun. When I created The Skolny Organization, it became the 7th Radical Idea. Aside from profit belonging to the individual who creates value, it is the most challenged of the GTIdeology’s Seven Radical Ideas.
It outrages people.
Why The Outrage?
That we can’t (or shouldn’t) work with friends has become a business cliché. It is adduced as an obvious and profound point that obviously should not be challenged or second guessed. But like most cliches, if you do question it, those who press it are hard-pressed to say exactly why it is so.
My experience certainly belies the notion that it is a bad idea, including my time at Hardee’s with my best friend, those places I’ve worked and companies I’ve worked with, in which I’ve built friendships with co-workers and partners.
Working with our friends is a good thing. And not only that, it is a vital part of an organization’s culture, essential to correctly understanding profit, and the cornerstone of its recruiting.
But You’re Crossing Lines!
One objection that tends to arise is that working with our friends is “crossing lines.” But what lines are we crossing? What exactly is it about friendship that precludes our working together? The trust? The fondness? The familiarity?
Each is ridiculous on the face of it. The traits of friendship can only enhance working relationships. The real issue here is that too many friendships lack those traits. In a dysfunctional society in which relationships tend to be built on guilt, manipulation, and advantage taking, hiring ones “friends” allows those dysfunctions to enter the work place.
The real issue here is that people have crummy “friends,” willing to exploit and take advantage of the “friendship,” because that’s how society functions.
The alleged “lines” that must be drawn between private life and work life are to prevent those with whom we work from having any real expectations of us, as, in life, most people have expectations of others that don’t foster functionality.
The phoniness that beleaguers American business exists because so few “authentic selves” are people we would really want to spend time with. So they are fenced off. This is the reason forced fun and team building exercises do not work.
Friendship is organic. Once a company has chosen to build a phoniness fence that precludes it, fun is no longer an option. But those opposed to working with friends are also opposed to having fun at work.
But Work Isn’t Supposed To Be Fun!
A second objection to working with friends is also an assumptive piece of cultural wisdom: Work isn’t supposed to be fun. And, as the preceding, nobody can really say exactly why.
It grows out of the first objection: If there is a line between work and life and fun is something we (try to) have on the “life side” of the line, something we do with friends, it follows pretty reasonably that fun cannot cross over the line. It manifests in the “work-life balance” kerfuffle.
Fun is considered a diversion from work. Two days a week and two weeks a year are dedicated to “fun.” The remainder is time to work, to be serious. It depends not only on the errant “crossing lines” objection but on an incorrect definition of fun.
Fun is enjoyment or playfulness; it is not exclusionary to playing. It involves amusement and laughter, but does not demand frivolity. That is the error. Fun is a function of with whom and the attitude with which we are working. It does not preclude the working.
As I mentioned above, my best friend and I typically ran the entire Hardee’s overnight by ourselves. That is because we were highly efficient and very productive. That efficiency and productivity was enhanced, not hindered by our friendship.
And because we were working with our friends? We had fun. It was inevitable.
The Profit Pivot: A Business Isn’t a Social Club
A third objection to having fun at work is that, “Business isn’t a social club!” Obviously, a business is not a social club, but tautologies prove nothing and as an objection, it is really only a summarized re-statement of the first two wrapped in deficient logic.
That a company is not a “social club” does not preclude it from being a social institution— a place where humans are gathered for a purpose. That the purpose is something other than “being social” nor more precludes being social than its not being a coffee club precludes drinking coffee at work.
It is stupid, pure, sheer stupidity to assert otherwise. It is cultural mythology that needs debunked. Nothing more.
I said above that this idea outrages people. It does and it seems to because they zero in on the two words, “friends” and “fun,” both of which offend the mythology and its consensus wisdom.
But the entirety of the idea is that We work with our friends. We profit. We have fun.
Not only does it nor preclude work and profit, they are central to the idea. The distinction is that in a For-Profit Moral Community, people are not the means to profit as an end. They are the end of the means, which is profit.
Whether a company chooses to embrace the mythology instead, the decision to draw lines between its employees that discourage their friendship and to foster a culture that precludes fun is certainly its prerogative.
But that choice must be recognized as exactly what it is, that choice.
GTIdeology Happy Hour Chat
We discussed this topic in The Skolny Organization’s #GTIdeology Happy Hour Twitter Chat on February 5, 2015. The complete chat transcript is here and I have also written a short rejoinder to the discussion. You are invited and welcome to join us every Thursday at 4:00 PT | 7:00 ET to discuss various aspects of our GTIdeology— the ideology of Greatness Through the Individual applied to business.
About Vince Skolny
Vince Skolny is Founding Chair of The Skolny Organization, an unabashedly for-profit venture marketing organization that exists to impact the world by creating and encouraging greatness through the individual.Vince is a fierce advocate for the individual and intends it to lead an entire social revolution, reorienting society around individual persons, point blank equality, and genuine egalitarian opportunity.