This morning, my dad got a call from one of his best friends. He and this friend had started their careers together. Decades passed, jobs changed, but the friendship remains strong. Today, his friend had called to share some sad news – his wife had died. He needed some solace. And best friends provide comfort in spades.
I think back to my earliest days at work. I am in an auditorium filled with hundreds of people like myself – young at heart, eager to make a dent in the world. One of the senior executives took the stage and shared an insight that I will cherish all my life.
Somewhere in this auditorium sits your best friend. When you work with friends, success at work is sure to come by
Fifteen years later, TCS’ ex CEO Ramadorai published The TCS Way. His description of how the Company was “collegial” in his early days struck a chord.
Collegial is a word that describes a terrific work ethic. At college, everyone works with stars in their eyes and aim to change the world for the better. And with best friends by your side, nothing is holding you back.
In the industrial era, Companies created gated residences for their employees. Coworkers were neighbours, their families were friends, and their children played together. All of this nurtured a “community” experience. People stayed not just for the pay, but for what the community brought into their lives.
Today, remote working is in vogue. But, while we are geographically apart from our colleagues, we probably share more time with our colleagues than ever before. We meet online all the time – meetings, emails, projects. We are working on the same problem and solution spaces.
Does this bring us together enough to develop into strong friendships? And given that we tend to hide behind roles in the online business world (managers, architect etc.), should we sometimes peel our online veils a little so we can have more honest dialogues?
A few silicon companies have tried to recreate buddy networks. Fraternity-type meets – serving free beer, paid group vacations, and spas have attempted to bring a “family” dimension. There’s one challenge though – what makes a family is not conformity to a set behaviour, but inclusiveness, sacrifices and shared joy. And so – these companies create hostel fraternities, but these are limited to those who fit into their lifestyle.
Our world is expanding online. We meet more people online today who share our values and thoughts. The long tail generates more opportunity for discovering like-minded folks. I think this partly explains why Facebook and their ilk are so successful (of course marketing is another reason!). These are communities based on ideas. Specifically, groups centred on one “core” idea thrive (e.g. a copywriters group, a group which looks to help digital entrepreneurs succeed, a tech forum to discuss Apple stuff). But here’s the thing – ideas will change over time. And intellectual bonding doesn’t automatically translate to great friendships. It’s good to enjoy the groups while they last – but ensure we understand that they aren’t long-standing in the sense our families and friends are.
Some of us have been fortunate. Many on my fast dial list are colleagues- turned-friends. And while they follow their career paths over time, the friendship cemented stays true. Indeed, the shared experiences make us all more relevant. And the thought that authentic advice is just a call away is comforting.
Enough said. There are so many communities around us – both virtual and physical. None of them is perfect – just as we are not perfect. But it’s in accommodating the imperfection that communities can work their magic. And while we may or may not find the community we belong to, let me wish you an equally fulfilling thing – may you find a best friend at work!