Respect and Trust
If you trust someone, you know they will complete their work when you give it to them. If you respect someone, you know that work will not need to be fixed, polished, or modified.
When you were in school, you made friends. When you started working, you probably tried to do the same thing. And, through mistake after mistake, you navigated the precarious nature of work and friends and coworkers and office politics and so on.
Now, you know which projects are going to get done because of which groups get along. Or you know which departments just don’t talk to each other. The problem is that none of this makes your job easier, simpler, or more efficient. It only makes it harder.
Truth is, there are only two things you need at work: respect and trust.
It doesn’t matter if you are liked or loved. It doesn’t matter if you go to the happy hours, bring in a cake for birthdays, chip in for a going away gift, go out to lunch, or stay late for a project. It doesn’t matter if you “have a best friend at work” regardless of what you may have heard. It doesn’t matter if you “inspire confidence in your team”.
If you trust someone, you know they will complete their work when you give it to them.
If you respect someone, you know that work will not need to be fixed, polished, or modified.
And the reverse is also true.
If all you do is focus on these two things, you can sidestep a lot of complications.
Let’s say you’re in charge of a team. It’s your first management role and you want to make sure they like you. So you arrange for bagels every morning, and talk to your team throughout the day.
You do everything you can to become a “fun” boss. Then, one of them misses a deadline and you have to do something about it. You talk to them, they talk back, you get into an argument, and now, instead of a respectful work environment, there are emotional landmines to navigate.
What about peers? Let’s say you have a coworker and you go out after work every week for a quick drink at happy hour. You get to know them pretty well. You know about their pets, family, relationships, and even political stances. They become your best friend at work. One happy hour, when you split the bill, as usual, their credit card is declined so you cover the entire tab.
Regardless of how you feel about lending money to friends, this will affect how the two of you work together.
I’m not suggesting that you should see work as a place where you can’t have friends. I am saying that you don’t need friends at work. You need people who trust and respect you.
And remember this goes both ways. You have to give respect and learn to trust your peers.
You have to talk about this, out loud, dispassionately.
“When you make changes to my work without telling me, it makes me think you don’t respect my abilities. Can we discuss any changes before you make them?”
“Based on that last project, I respect your work but I can’t trust that you’ll hit the deadlines. Can we setup a few extra check-ins?”
“I can trust you’ll get your part of this project done but, given how much we had to rework it last time, I’m worried I won’t respect it. Let’s discuss the criteria for this project in greater detail.”
You may not make friends this way. You may lose friends this way. But, you could lose those friends because they quit and get another job. You could lose those friends if the company shuts down. You might even reject a job offer because you care more about your friends than your career.
Friendship is a wonderful thing. Work is not. Don’t mix the two of them up.
I find ways to help people perform to the best of their abilities, make processes as efficient as possible, ensure technology is being used to accelerate not complicate. In the end, there will always be work. But if we do it together, maybe it won't feel like work.