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Can co-workers be friends and like family?

I am a bit old school, and I need to enjoy my work. I have been accused of being too close with work colleagues and direct reports, but that is in my nature. It helps drive my passion to care about those with whom I work. How can I balance my human nature with business success? Should I start my own company to own the culture or look for a company that is more about the people and less about short term success. Do such companies still exist?


Topic Expert
Christie Jahn
Title: CFO
Company: Prime Investments & Development
(CFO, Prime Investments & Development) |

There are companies still like this. There are a couple of considerations. It can can be tough for the leader if certain boundaries are not set or the leader isn't strong enough to handle this type of environment. Most times what I see happen is the leader is so close they can no longer lead effectively. The team has to know you are still their leader and have business to take care of. If you get your dream team working for you this shouldn't be a problem. When you cultivate an environment of caring and passion for what each of you bring to the table your team will have more skin in the game and will work in a fashion as to not let you down.

Each of you has to respect the relationship but more importantly respect and live into the companies mission, vision and values. Hold each other accountable to those values and be transparent enough to be able to call each other out on them.

I don't know that you need to start your own company to have this; you can start it with your own team. Read about servant leadership and The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni describes how to create a trusting relationship with cross accountability.

Topic Expert
Patrick Dunne
Title: Chief Financial Officer
Company: Milk Source
(Chief Financial Officer, Milk Source) |

You can have the same great relationships in a company and still drive that passion you describe. I have worked in older "stodgier" companies where you could accomplish this within certain business units/departments. I think that no matter what, you need to be able to step outside of the role you have to objectively evaluate employees. Make sure your performance objectives are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time scaled). This allows you to objectively measure your employee performance.

Topic Expert
Regis Quirin
Title: Director of Finance
Company: Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP
LinkedIn Profile
(Director of Finance, Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP) |

There are some companies that foster the family and friends connection. The idea is that if you are a good employee, you have certain qualities that are also common among your friends and family. A highly ethical worker with a great work ethic is less likely to be involved with people that are opposite. This logic falls apart with the saying, “opposites attract.”

These companies usually have also set in place several rules, such as one spouse cannot report to another spouse.

Regardless of the company, you are the only one in charge of your emotions. Please take a look at a blog I wrote – “Emotions in Business” posted on this site 06.27.2014. Within reason, your emotional strengths can be an asset, or self-destructive. The trade-off will follow you anywhere you go, because it is your nature.

(Associate) |

My short answer is yes. I read this question and knew I had to share some experiences I've had as maybe they'll help others like us. As you said anon, it's your nature. It's mine too.
I love what Christie said. You need your team to see you as a leader. Being a servant leader isn't what is often thought of in this world as the way to get ahead, but it is a great way to lead. I always try to let my team know that I won't make them do anything I wouldn't do myself, and then I need to show that in real life so it's just not talk.
Sometimes the company mission doesn't lend itself to motivating people, but relationships can fill that void. I try to show interest in their development and caring for them as people. My teams have respected these things and have cared about their work as a result.
On the flip side, I would err on the side of caution with your superiors if you have them. I have shared a lot with superiors and it's hit or miss as to how they'll respond. Even if you're sharing info about your team, keep it professional and choose your topics wisely. If you're doing the above, trying to develop people and getting to know them, your superior probably doesn't need to know details.
I hope this helps...

Mark Matheny
Title: VP - FInancial Planning and Analysis
Company: Novolex (formerly Hilex Poly)
(VP - FInancial Planning and Analysis, Novolex (formerly Hilex Poly)) |

Isn't it more about the individual than the company culture? We have folks who like to be "social" but we also have those that want to keep their work life and personal life separate. You engage with the groups differently. You can care about work life (career, workload, etc.) without crossing the line for those who don't want you to go there.

Keith Johnson
Title: Principal
Company: Keith E. Johnson CPA PA
(Principal, Keith E. Johnson CPA PA) |

Absolutely yes. But start with putting human nature first (within reason) before business success. The first will take care of the second.

Ern Miller
Title: Co-CEO
Company: Miller Small Business Solutions
(Co-CEO, Miller Small Business Solutions) |

Before I start, a disclaimer: I was taught to use the masculine form when referring to an individual in a collective. The use of "he", "his", "him", and etc. do not indicate male dominance (unless otherwise noted), but to clarify that I am referring to an individual of any sex rather than a group, in which case I use the collective, "they" and etc.

The trend I see is that companies and employees are not as connected as they once were. There used to be a title an employee earned, "Company Man". (This was back in the days of male workforce superdominance.)

Now, "company man" is a derogatory term synonymous with "corporate suckup". This became a bad term because companies showed that they no longer valued company loyalty (not all companies, but enough that the effect stuck). Companies showed they would layoff if it meant a better earnings report. They would replace a man who has been doing his job for years, with a young guy, fresh out of college, at half the pay, and could save money by not having to provide a pension for the older no longer employee.

This turned into a lack of loyalty on the employees' part. Employees learned that to stay employed, they needed to constantly improve their value to the company. But, the return for investment of self-improvement was diminishing. It was more profitable for an employee to go elsewhere to apply their talents. A corporate rival willing to pay more for their present skills, or to a related job in a non-competitor, or to start their own company.

In turn the companies found that without loyalty, employees are merely tools to be used and discarded when no longer useful.

This has turned our workforce more transient. That movement prevents us from getting close to our coworkers or our employers/employees. By the time you make a friend, they are moving on. This means that investing time to build friendship and trust is not worth it, in most cases.

I see all of this as a good thing. It will make the workplace a better place

Employees are learning that they will be paid what they are worth to an employer. Employees will be able to confidently ask for the money they feel they deserve, instead of relying on some structured wage scale that ignores personal contribution. If an employee feels confident that he will be paid better by being more valuable, he will work harder to become more valuable.

Employers will pay for what they value. As an employee works to develop value to the company, he will become more valuable to the company. The company will pay more to retain that valuable employee. Corporate layoffs will be less frequent and only occur when drastic measures are needed to keep the company alive. It will make the bean-counter's job harder in that he cannot justify large layoffs if the individuals involved in said layoff are intimately valuable to the company.

What the employee needs to do is be more proactive in their own goals instead of relying on the actions of others. You will need to plan for your retirement by personal investments. You will need to improve your skills instead of sleepily arriving every day to punch a clock. You will need to be aware of areas you need to improve.

You will become a better person. You will become more satisfied with yourself and your work. You will discover your life outside of your work.

Title: CFO
Company: C-Suite Services
LinkedIn Profile
(CFO, C-Suite Services) |

Yet, we ALL see "CULTURE FIT" in job descriptions or potential employee evaluations. What that "culture" means depends on what the Board/CEO wants it to be or build.

I am personally in the progressive side of things where shared vision and commitment to the goals of the company and as well as personal "happiness" are important. Where employees are NOT treated like drones just because the company pays or employs them. Of course there are caveats to this, but generally this is the framework I want to build/nurture.

As a Consultant, I also evaluate the companies I work with and evaluate the "culture", the CEO and it's Board. Am I a fit to them as well as are they a fit to me. As a member of the C-Team, do I have the chance to contribute in shaping (or changing) that culture. Is the CEO/Board receptive to "culture" changes.


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