Friends as colleagues, colleagues as friends

Working with friends can be fraught with danger for any business and yet we spend a lot of time together, often developing friendships within our professional environment.  These professional friendships can be a fantastic source of support and can also create politics within even the smallest business.

I have been (and still am) fortunate to work with a number of friends who are phenomenally talented and it’s a true privilege to collaborate with them.  Equally, I’ve been in situations where work roles and friendships haven’t helped.  It’s always going to be difficult to be the boss and make hard decisions when it involves your friends (even if you think you’ll be friends forever).  When you are working in a high pressure situation, like delivering a large scale event, there is a high level of strain placed on that relationship and sometimes traits emerge that you didn’t expect which can confront one’s perceptions of the other.  It is very difficult to be friend, supporter, manager, director or any other combination all at the same time with many different things needing your attention!

In the last week, we held a gathering for our UK-wide Associates team and I am proud to count every one of those people around the table as my friends. They are also my peers and I thoroughly enjoy working with them, being challenged by them and bashing around ideas with them.  I didn’t know any of them as friends (except one) before we started working together but in each case we have managed to develop a professional friendship that facilitates an effective way of working, as well as being enjoyable.

I think that this professional friendship has emerged because of mutual respect, shared high standards, recognition of the reality of our relationship and a professional approach.  These combined mean that we are able to separate our work persona from ourselves so even if I have been the most annoying person in the work environment, we can still be friends outside the office.  It also means that we seek to resolve our differences immediately and raise issues, problems and concerns as soon as they arise. It’s the festering of hurt, however superficial, that breeds dissatisfaction and creates chasms within the team which means that we just can’t do our job properly and mistakes get made.

So in order to provide the best possible value to our clients, to ensure that the business has a future and to create brilliant events, we have to maintain those professional friendships with balance, pragmatism and acceptance of each individual, whatever their context.  We have to be able to accept the great times with the difficult circumstances and use a hefty chunk of common sense and exercise a lot of forgiveness to ensure that the balance is retained.  In working with my friends, I also recognise the incredible value of my friends outside work (thank you for all the support – you know who you are!).

Being friends and colleagues is great – fulfilling, positive, supportive – but we have to recognise that we are both!

Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky Events

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