I recently posted what I called the “Joe Series” based on a reader’s experiences being out of work for longer than he ever imagined – and how he finally found a job he likes even better than the one that let him go. The idea for these posts started with a comment Joe left on one of my posts.
While I had work friends over the years, I mostly socialized extracurricularly, if you will. I never really thought about it, but it’s probably important to develop interests outside of work while we are still employed; that way life can be more balanced in challenging times.
She makes a really good point. It’s all about the balance. Even if we don’t lose our jobs, having most of our social life center around work-based relationships never gets you away from the job. At least on some level, you always bring your work with you.
Now as much as I encourage you to love your job I think life is a whole lot richer if we surround ourselves with friends from a variety of places. And if you’re spending most of your social capital on your work-based relationships, maybe Joe’s words will get you thinking:
The social effects of losing my job was something else I wasn’t prepared for at all. It never occurred to me that about 90% of my social life was directly related to my job. My previous job was very social and every day I had lunch with co-workers or a vendor. Almost overnight I was spending the entire day by myself.
So what about your work relationships?
Of course, having good work relationships can be important. Not only does it make the job more pleasant, it’s an essential part of working smart and building a strong social network. But what percent of your time and energy do you give work relationships in relation to your whole life?
Early in my career, I avoided getting too close to anyone at work because I didn’t want my social life to cross over with my job life. And I just hated being forced to socialize with my colleagues, as many places do to encourage camaraderie and teamwork. For some, depending on their particular job and preferences, keeping a distance may the right choice. (Although I’ve learned that it does pay to give in to the forced (uh…highly encouraged) socialization if you can at all bring yourself to do so. Even for introverts like me.)
On the other hand, some people bring 100% of who they are right into the workplace from day one and set no boundaries whatsoever. Again, while I think in most cases workplace boundaries are a really good thing, there may be circumstances where this works for an individual. Although I do want to mention one very extroverted in-your-face woman I helped hire for a manager’s job. Turns out she had almost no boundaries and spent all her lunches with just the same few members of her staff. Unfortunately, she was not good at interpreting the organizational culture, which highly discouraged such behavior. And, for this and other reasons, she eventually lost her job.
Anyone have a good balance scale?
As for me…after all these years, I’ve found that a mix of both works best. Finding the balance – as MusEditions suggests. Apart from the good friendships I retain to this day, there have been great social networking benefits. Friends I’ve met in former jobs have been there for me many times over the years, pointing me to cool new job opportunities. (And, of course, I’ve done my best to return the favor in one way or another.) Then again, as I said before, there are also many situations where creating a professional distance is exactly the right approach.
My way of looking at it is there is no absolute rule that works in all cases. For me, it’s kind of like great art…you know it when you see it. But whatever your preference turns out to be, work-life balance is well worth considering. Does yours need tweaking?
How’s your work-life balance? Is it working for you? Will it work for you in the future?
And if you’re curious, here are my posts from the Joe Series:
Being Out of Work is Just Plain Scary (2nd post)
Good to Have a Friend in HR Tell It to You Straight! (3rd and final post)