I have been in the corporate life long enough to have seen my early mentors retire or otherwise move on to their own businesses. Its been interesting to watch the social dynamic of people who are tight with one another on the job, and how that changes as people change jobs or retire. Some of the most hurt and disillusioned people I know are those who took to heart assurances of true friendship from people who were simply colleagues. One of the truest tests of the bonds between you and those who befriend you at work is what happens after you no longer work together.
I've seen this again recently through not only our staff reduction, but just the overall transition from the founding management team to the current Nelson leadership. We've had some turnover, particularly in Marketing and at Women of Faith, and of course at the CEO/Board level as we went private. I've seen evidence of true friendship that is lasting long after the commerce ended, and I've heard hurt feelings from people who can't get phone calls returned from their old gang.
So what's the critical learning here? First, its okay to be trusted and respected colleagues. Don't oversell yourself as a friend to someone who, were it not for the fact that you work in the same place, you'd never see and with whom you have nothing in common. Also, don't always believe it when you hear it from someone else about you. If you work enough years in corporations you'll learn that companies don't attend you father's funeral, or hold your head while you throw up, or share a cup of coffee and good advice when your kids are driving you crazy. People do those things, good friends do those things, and you should vet your friends with a simple test: would I want to be around them if we didn't work together, and do they feel the same way? If the answer is "no" to either, be a great colleague and don't oversell . I've seen too many people who use work as a surrogate for a true social and family life, and its a poor substitute.
Last Saturday our monthly Guitar Circle met at the home of Jerry and Julia Park, Jerry being a retired EVP from Nelson. Jerry also occasionally hosts a BOB luncheon (Boys of Bar-be-que) with several of his former staff members. Next Saturday Vonnie and I are going to an eary Cinco de Mayo party with our friends Rusty and Keith; Rusty being a former HR staff member in my first years at Nelson. These are the relationships that endure and mean so much years after the commerce between you ends. I hope you go and make new friendships this month with people who can't help you in any way. It may go well...