Friday, September 14, 2007

Friendships at Work

Can you have friends at work? I certainly thought I could. I have a coterie of friends from former jobs. The job is long gone, but the friendship remains. At least I thought this was the case, until I read this in Are Workplace Friendships Healthy?:

Ken Siegel of Beverly Hills, a psychologist and president of the Impact Group, a psychologists' group that consults with business management, says he doesn't believe workplace friendships are real. True friendships, he says, can't exist when there are issues such as money and status at play.

"It's a myth, desired but not achievable. When you inject money and power into the equation, it changes things. Friendships at work are an oxymoron," Siegel says. "People try to create workplace friendships out of their own vulnerability, and the more companies talk about friendships at work, the less real it is."

My work friends must not be real friends! That's it. Actually, my work friendships have almost entirely been with people who earn roughly the same and are at the same level, so I think that Siegel does have a point about equality between friends.

Since Plato, philosophers have debated the requirements of friendship. It's one of my pet topics. To make a huge generalization, I will say that many of the qualities that philosophers value in friendships (intimacy, equality, kinship, virtue, reciprocity) are qualities that are now seen mostly in friendships between partners in the modern marriage.