Friday, April 30, 2010

Colleagues who are friends and colleagues who are friendly

Nick Southgate makes the case for friendly colleagues:

To be friendly is to be polite, engaged and respectful without, on the one hand, stooping to being obsequious or, on the other, remaining aloof and being surly. It is the virtue, in other words, of being easy to be around and straightforward to deal with. This would seem an ideal benchmark for being a good colleague who builds good relationships, yet stops short of friendship itself.

This is why we like colleagues who are interested, but who do not intrude and prefer those who rely upon us but are never a burden. The colleagues we admire are those who know that professional imposition is different to personal imposition; that the obligations of the workplace are not the obligations of friendship.

They recognise that work gathers people together through chance and that the bonds of happenstance are weak and should be easily broken – in sharp contrast to the strong and unbreakable bonds of friendship.

We should happily conclude, therefore, that a good colleague is not a friend. We should not see this as losing friendship, but as gaining true and friendly colleagues. Friendship is a great commitment we can only make to a few and can be a great burden. Friendliness is something we can offer to all and good colleagues do not burden us at all.