Sunday, October 5, 2014

Does Friendship Have a Place in Business?

Do you have friends in business?
Photo Credit: Bing Images

I don’t mean your competitors with whom you smile and shake hands when you happen to be in the same place at the same time. I mean those with whom you spend time outside of work, have shared memories and have an affection for.

What about your co-workers? Any friends there, or do you just do your job while they do theirs?

I recently connected with a friend I had not spoken to in over 25 years. Other than the requisite tell-me-about-your-family-and-life-over-the-last-quarter-century, the conversation moved along as if we saw each other just last week. After the conversation, I mentally looked back on other long-term friendships and realized just how much each of those individuals made me who I am today. How much I learned from each and every one of them.

Some of those who have had a significant impact on my life and how I conduct business today were personal friends, while others friendships were forged through business, even though we may have been competitors.

Which brings me to the question – does friendship have a place in business? If so, what is that place?

I believe it does. Granted, ensuring your business makes decisions that take advantage of market conditions or other differentiating circumstances is vital to its success. However, what if choosing an action is detrimental to your friend’s company? Is friendship more important than drawing an ethical line based solely on business concerns, or is it necessary to ensure that humanistic considerations are considered as well?

Yes, universal ethics require that businesses operate in an honest manner, and one in which employees are treated fairly and provided a safe work environment. However, when it comes to business strategy, sometimes the ethical choices are not so crystal clear.

They (whoever ‘they’ are) say that competitors can be friends, and you hear about it quite often in sports; but what about in business? Yes, you get more flies with honey than you do vinegar, but what happens when the bonds of friendship become a barrier to taking the next step in your business strategy?

The reason friendship matters in business, is that friends treat other friends differently than acquaintances. They tend to be more acceptable to working with people and companies they know, rather than those they do not. The costs involved tend to be less, and a sense of trust is already established. It’s a win-win for everyone.

While this seems a silly topic to discuss, I think it goes back to my July 14th post on why kindness matters in business.

Where do you draw the line? How do you know when you’ve gone too far to back out, and then what do you do? Salvage the friendship, or allow it to cease as a result? Do true friends understand the difference between personal life and business and see your decision for the business tactic that it is, or walk away from the friendship in disappointment?

I suspect that there are several who will read this blog and think that I’ve completely – and finally – lost my mind. However, I would be truly interested in discussing this issue with those of you who have faced this challenge.

Thanks in advance for the discussion!

Before founding her own consulting firm, Dawn Gannon served as a respected project management and administrative operations professional in the military, higher education, and women’s healthcare fields for 25 years. She holds a Masters of Business Administration from American Public University, is a contributor on LinkedIn, and the author of the Management in Motion blog.

Dawn currently serves as the Past Chair of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s Women’s Council. She has also been a featured speaker within the Fertility Community, and written numerous articles on the topic of childfree living.