Do you have a 'best friend' at work?
With family support systems not being what they used to be, 24/7 work culture, travel and long hours, life is often lonely at the top. Besides, it is a reality that cannot be any longer swept under the carpet, there is increasing number of senior executives who are single — either not in a relationship or separated. With many spouses and partners having dual careers, quality time between couples come at a premium.
Hitting the gym in the morning and the pub in the evening is not always the best way to beat the blues. At the same time, trust does not come easily between colleagues and peers, who are at some level competitors. Therefore, finding a safe space to let down one’s guard at work is a major challenge for leaders of the corporate world.
Not having a sounding board or someone holding up the mirror, without necessarily being the stereotypical agony aunt or uncle, can not only be a prescription for burn-out but also professionally dysfunctional. At the same time, developing friendships indiscriminately and sharing confidences indiscreetly could also be a recipe for disaster.
Earlier benign bosses and mentors sometimes filled in this role. But, now with long distance working this does not always work out. Besides, with everyone running around like headless chicken in the organisation with their own sets deadlines, downtime at work is a rare commodity.
External support like counsellors, shrinks or personal coaches are not always the solution and certainly not the recommended first port of call.
A leading international firm that specialises in measuring employee satisfaction, puts a large weight on “friendships” at work. (Read: Why having friends at work is important?)Needless to say, one has to be intelligent about personal relationships and also set conscious boundaries and ‘no go’ zones. It would, of course, require matching of wavelengths and personal chemistry just as in life everyone cannot be a best friend. Also such associations must have a mutual respect for each other’s private lives, personal commitments, professional ethics especially with respect to classified knowledge and confidential information.
However, every once in a while, one can reach a point of exhaustion. Perhaps, that is the point to reach out to a Coach. A good friend may suggest that to you or even help you find one.