Wednesday, December 1, 2010

More on the “No Friends” Culture

In last week’s blog, I wrote about the young entrepreneur who wanted to create a professional and business-like culture where people were team-oriented and professional, but did not socialize inside or outside of the office. To some people, this is likely a very appealing culture where they can effectively separate their personal lives from their professional lives with clear lines of demarcation. They no longer have to worry about “taking work home with them” in terms of discussing the office with their spouses and/or families. It also relieves them of any responsibility for having to take part in the seemingly innumerable fundraisers that their co-workers children might be involved in.

Ah… the relief of clear separation between work and home.

Thinking more about this culture made me think of a good friend of mine. We were close friends in High School and beyond. He was always a lively guy with a great sense of humor, quick with a joke, and always up for doing something creative or different. He was the kind of friend that I really appreciated because he helped me stretch myself and do things I might not do on my own, but he never crossed the line into things that were illegal or overtly dangerous.

After college, we were physically separated by hundreds of miles and, as many people do, drifted apart. This was prior to the time of the internet and Facebook, so for years I totally lost track of him. Occasionally, something would remind me of him and rekindle my desire for that friendship, but there was no easy way to contact him. His parents and family had moved away and I had no idea how to contact him.

Years passed and the internet made its way into our lives. Sure enough, one day I started thinking about him and decided to try and locate him. It didn’t take long until I had an address and phone number. And best of all, he was living in a location that I would be travelling to shortly.

To make a long story short, I had the chance to visit him and his family in their home. We quickly bonded again, and the weekend was filled with stories and laughter, fond memories and jokes, photographs and dreams. At the end of the weekend, his wife, whom I had never met before, pulled me aside. With tears in her eyes, she thanked me for my visit. In our weekend together, she had rediscovered the man she fell in love with 20 years earlier and it gave her hope for the future.

She went on to tell me that her husband was involved in highly classified work, a fact that had come out during our time together. Naturally, he was not allowed to discuss his work outside of the secure facility in which he worked. So he never brought his work home, which was a relief. But he also could not socialize with his co-workers outside of the office for fear that classified items might be discussed in public. He never had lunch or dinner with any of his co-workers, avoided places they might hang out, and had built a wall around his work life.

Unfortunately, that wall had been built around his home life as well. Since he had basically stopped talking at the office, he also stopped talking at home. It was the only way he could be sure of not letting anything inappropriate slip out. My visit and all of our discussions about the past had been safe ground for my friend, and he had returned to his former happy, almost gregarious self. And his wife loved him for it.

What is the message here?

When people understand what is expected of them, they will try their very best to comply. But, if those expectations are inconsistent with the type of person they really are, unintended consequences may well pop up. In this case, a happy and vibrant individual had complied with the culture of his organization and that culture had taken over his personal life as well. And I doubt that my friend is alone on this. My guess is that many people adapt themselves to their company culture even though it impacts their personal and private life.

Have you found that to be true? Have you worked in a culture that was contrary to your own nature causing you either to be miserable, or to adapt yourself and change the person that you were? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

At ECI Learning Systems LLC, we are dedicated to helping companies get the greatest return from their most valuable asset: their employees. We work with you to align 3 key organizational factors:
• Your Company Culture
• The Leadership Styles of your key managers
• The Expectations of your Employees

When these 3 factors are aligned, you create an energy in your company that improves productivity, reduces absenteeism, increases creativity, and positively impacts your bottom line. Contact ECI Learning Systems LLC today to get your free Workplace Evaluation.

Until next time.....

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

1 comment:

  1. Poignant Story Dave,

    The ability to integrate our lives into our work and vice a versa is important. AS I survey the world from my vantage point,it appears that in fact we are coming to realize this.

    In many ways it is the Gen X and Y that are showing us the way.

    Keep up the good work,