The things nobody ever teaches you about friends at work

 “I don’t have any friends”

A Rich Lister told me that once as he was looking over my shoulder, busted looking at Facebook at work. 

“Are those all your friends?”

I half laughed and he looked at me quite seriously and confessed that he knew a lot of people but that he didn’t have any real friends. 

I remember thinking that was really sad and I didn’t really see the point of having heaps of money and being admired and what not if you didn’t have anyone to share your toys with. 

But this is what we are taught at work.

In my first proper job as a rep for Tip Top Ice Cream I remember doing supermarket visits with one of the other girls on a Friday. It was about five o’clock and I remember asking her if she wanted to go and get a drink. She sharply told me that she had plenty of friends and didn’t “do work friends” so no, she didn’t want to have a drink with me. 

I’ve received these slaps on the face at various times through my working life and I don’t blame people because friendship requires vulnerability and some people don’t want to be vulnerable in a work context. I get that and I would definitely say, make sure you get some friends (at least one) who you don’t work with so you can have a meltdown without the whole office finding out. 

But as I look back on my working life I now know that people who  “don’t do work friends” are wrong. If you were to ask me about the projects and work stuff that I did over the years, it all blurs into a big blob of nothing. 

I remember the people: the ones who cracked me up, the ones who made my life hell and the ones were just a bit weird. 

I remember the kindness of 70 year old Shirley at Auckland City Council who used to take the dirty coffee cups of my desk and get me a clean one from the kitchen. I remember the boss from hell I had at Fairfax who used to put me in her office and shout at me for an hour every Monday morning,  and the bakery manager at Woolworths who introduced me to the joy of eating frozen lolly cake. I remember boozy Melbourne Cup sweepstakes and dancing in the Mayor’s seats at Billy Joel because my friends knew I liked him (Billy Joel, not the Mayor) and scored me the ticket for my birthday. 

As a I got older I started to subscribe to this bullshit theory of knowing lots of people but not letting anyone get close and I regret that. Agenda-based people leave you hollow and dispose of you when you aren’t fulfilling their needs anymore and much like LinkedIn connections, they aren’t worth much. I started off being good at making friends and then the world told me it was wrong so I got bad at it for a while and now I’m trying harder to make up for it and get back to the real, friendly me. The work will always be there and when I look back, the work never really mattered anyway. 

This weekend I’m doing the Tongariro Crossing (let’s see how my new leg goes) with some friends I met and kept from Auckland City Council and my Rich Lister non-friend will probably be sitting in a big house somewhere with his no-friends and I know which I’d rather have. Work friends are important and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. 

6 responses
I make work friends, but it takes me about five years or so.
Keep speaking that truth, lady! I don't get people who don't do work friends.
Love this. I'm still great friends with the team I worked with at my first ad agency, over 15 years ago. Couldn't tell you what clients we worked on...
3 visitors upvoted this post.