Five years ago I drew a line under any work based friendships. With the advice of my manager, I spent an evening deleting any colleagues from my social media accounts. I didn’t draw the line there. I deleted anyone I hadn’t had any meaningful contact with in recent years. But in recent months, hopefully not due to rose-tinted spectacles, I find myself reflecting on workplace friendships and thinking I’ve had it all wrong.
As is always the way, I found myself having a clear out over the Christmas break. I found myself wading through my memory boxes. To my 30th birthday cards. Reading a card with all the pleasantries of friendship.
If you know me, you’ll know my close friendships have never been in excess. So it was so difficult to find myself in a position where a person who had been at my 30th celebrations, as well as my baby shower, would be the person who turned my working life on its head.
Just over five years ago I lost my team as a result of a grievance and subsequent tribunal. And it was as crap as crap can be.
And as over dramatic as it sounds, it’s changed me for the worst.
Over Christmas I talked myself into throwing the card away. Why on earth would I want to keep something which brings all this back? Why would I need to be reminded of someone who brought so much sadness to so many?
And a couple of weeks ago I found myself of a leadership course with colleagues at work. One of the ironies being one of my peers is one of the people I deleted off Facebook all those years ago.
One of the realities of the course was acknowledging that not only am not an over-sharer, or even a sharer, but that I have created an invisible line in encouraging my team to share.
During the course I realised that all of my colleagues, as inspiring leaders, have people around that at work that they consider to be friends. So many citing that work would be a worse place if it weren’t for those they counted as friends.
Which I realised means I’m in the minority. For no good reason.
Work moves on around me, and in spite of me.
And I’m over here. Alone on my island. Shouting, though no-one is hearing “don’t do it, it might all end horribly.”
I have become the pessimist.
Is there anything worse?
In all this state of reflection, I sat at a colleague’s desk the other morning to look up to this:
And it really is the reality. Work based friendships are there for the taking. In many cases they make work bearable. In some cases, they provide the support and guidance which makes life better.
I know this. I remember this.
Once upon a time a lived with a colleague at a time when I was finding my way through a separation and subsequent divorce.
Two friends were at my wedding. Who were once colleagues. But whose friendship I have always relied on so much more.
So, I’m taking baby steps.
Someone I have a good relationship with at work is leaving. I’m one of a handful invited to her leaving celebration. So I’m going. And I’m not talking myself out of it.
I’m paying more attention to what my team are up to outside of work. And being inquisitive. Hey, their travel adventures are far better than mine, why wouldn’t I want to bank their recommendations for when we’re ready for long haul.
I can’t help but wonder what I’ve missed out on over the past five years. Listening to colleagues recalling meetups with those who have left but with whom they have remained in contact. Seeing marriages celebrated and babies born between those who have met in work.
I don’t think I’m wrong to have had a negative response to my perception of someone betraying my trust. But I’ve realised I am wrong to let my perception of one person betraying my trust to affect every relationship I have here on in.
So, now it’s about living and learning, and moving forward.