Friends in Business

Friends in Business

Friends in Business

I was recently having a conversation with a friend of mine who met up for dinner with a business friend of theirs. Here’s the story: My friends (let’s call her Jenny) was listening to her business colleague and friend (let’s call her Lisa) about a dream job that Lisa was going to apply for. She wanted advice from Jenny, as Jenny is a sharp cookie and Lisa knows she is great at PR, personal positioning and was flourishing in her own job. After the chat, when Jenny looked up the job, she could see why Lisa was excited as it looked interesting, well paid, with great prospects and opportunities, in a fresh niche. The problem was, it was also Jenny’s dream job too!

Jenny is a strong business candidate, in truth far more likely to get the job than Lisa. However, she would feel deeply upset and betrayed by Jenny applying for the role. Jenny wouldn’t have found out about it, if it wasn’t for the conversation over dinner, and she’s in a dilemma as to what she should do. Should she apply for the job and risk hurting Lisa and losing the friendship, or miss out on her dream opportunity and keep the friendship intact?

When Jenny dropped a hint to Lisa that she was interested to see what reaction would be, Lisa made it very clear that she would be extremely upset if she were to apply. An interesting point to note is actually Jenny really struggles with Lisa generally, and wouldn’t particularly miss her as a friend, as within their wider social group she has a bit of a reputation at flying off the handle and a few have had enough.

This conversation reminded me of a story of a famous British entrepreneur who will remain nameless. Whilst he was out at dinner with someone, he was asked for some counsel from him about a business idea. It was an area that the entrepreneur wasn’t directly working in and after the entrepreneur asked lots of questions there was a pause in the conversation.

The entrepreneur stated that he thought the idea was a bad one, and in due course, excused himself to go to the toilet. Whilst in the cubicle he phoned up his team in his office to get them to jump on the idea straight away. He then came out of the toilet, ordered a few rounds of drinks and stayed as long as he could with his friend to keep him from going back to work. The idea was a time sensitive one.

Was he being shrewd in a dog eat dog world, or self centred, dishonest and selfish. Where do you draw the lines between friendship and business and what do you consider more important?

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12 thoughts on “Friends in Business

  1. For what it’s worth I think Jenny should chat to Lisa a bit more directly about her desire to apply for the job. If they are friends (which is sounds like they are as Lisa sought Jenny’s counsel on it in the first place) then I reckon they should be able to work something out. After further discussion, if Lisa is really adamant that Jenny shouldn’t also apply for the job, then maybe Jenny shouldn’t, as surely friendship is more important than a job….and if Jenny really is a better candidate, then perhaps they won’t end up employing Lisa this time, and the job will be re-advertised, at which point Jenny could go for it?

    • Thanks for the comment Penny- Jenny has since chatted to Lisa about it, but Lisa has made it pretty clear that their friendship would be over if she was to go ahead with applying. It’s likely that Lisa wont even get to interview stage, based on the necessary experience levels needed. But as it’s a popular post chances are other strong candidates would be applying. Jenny and Lisa don’t really see much of each other, as Jenny doesn’t hugely enjoy Lisa’s relational skills. But she’s caught in that quandry….

  2. Hi, the function of friends is that of challenge as well as support. It implies that at times do apply ‘wounds’, but as the Jewish wisdom says, “Wounds of a friend can be trusted”. It will do us good to engage with tensions and constructively discuss weaknesses and strengths. To feel threathened by one another’s qualities may be part of the friendship but needs to be worked through, leading to a more rigorous character formation and stronger friendship.

    The second example is different as the creative idea belongs to the person who is pondering and bouncing ideas off in the process. It’s a breach of relationship and trust to ‘steal’ the idea and take it further is as bad as plagiarism.

  3. If I were Jenny I’d tell Lisa that I’d taken a look at the job details, congratulate her for finding such a great opportunity and say I was seriously tempted to apply myself. Then I’d wait for her reaction. Depending on the friendship she might think I’m joking or she could be an insecure character who would panic at this point. However, Lisa has to do or say something and whatever that is she”ll potentially be the one to break the friendship.

    With regard to the entrepreneur I wonder how anyone who successfully operates in this way and gets on in life at the expense of others can sleep at night. Presumably his conscience shrivelled up and died a long time ago. I wonder whether he’s ever heard of “doing to others what you’d have them do to you” and how he’d react if someone did?!

    • She funnily enough did just that. But Lisa wasn’t too pleased!
      Ironically the entrepreneur is one of the most well known in the world. I think many people’s consciences don’t get much look in, when their working in business. Tricky to know how people see this. In another context, with variations it was a question that was recently raised again through the film The Social Network- at what point does something become plagiarism or theft, and how much responsibility should there now be on people to ensure Non Disclosure Agreements are signed, so that there can be a lack of confusion about the nature of the conversation. (And just to clarify the entrepreneur mentioned is not Mark Zuckerberg).

  4. This is a super tricky situation. The reality is that if two friends want to apply for the same job, it doesn’t need to be and probably shouldn’t be the end of the world. We have no idea who else applies for jobs that we go for in most circumstances, if “Jenny” did decide to apply for the job, the only difference for “Lisa” is that she would know one other person who was applying. It doesn’t necessarily lessen her chances. However, I think it’s important to appreciate the sensitivities involved for Lisa and the frustration she may feel if Jenny chooses to apply.

    There should be, as Penny suggests, no reason why they can’t have a frank, open and gracious chat about the situation and (hopefully) find a mutually beneficial outcome and find the right perspective. If Lisa chooses to fly off the handle, then that won’t help anything and probably says more about her insecurities than the situation – which I don’t think warrants that kind of response.

    But boy, it’s tricky…

  5. Without wishing to be too simplistic, I think that there is an underlying assumption here about the relative importance of jobs and success. It’s important to attend to the bigger picture. Some things matter much more than a job for some of us. We need to get to grips with this. If friendship, love or faith are more important than job satisfaction then this is the worldview by which we guide our behaviour whatever it costs in terms of outcomes. Personally I believe that living this way carries its own promise and blessing, so any short term loss is worth it. No-one is obligated to live this way, but I think it helps to arrive at a mature decision on this pretty early on in life and not to make any secret of it. I think it means that thrusting, go-getting entrepreneurism is out of the question for those for whom friendship and love are the real priority. This is emphatically not to say that there aren’t what I would call kenarchic forms of entrepreneurship, and hopefully the kind of helpful conversation starter that this blog post represents will investigate and promote it. So big thanks Caleb!

    • Ooooh love that! Lovely point raised Roger, and I’m very grateful for it. You are so right that there’s so often an underlying assumption of job and success importance, and the bigger picture does get lost. Over the years I’ve been wrestling with the concept of what kenarchic forms of entrepreneurship look like- business revolutionaries is an expression I’m enjoying, where love does have space to exist within businesses. It’s so easy for those who have a higher priority on friendship and love as central to their worldview, to lose faith in engaging with business as a result of the complications that emerge. This causes a lot of dualism of being one person at work, and one person outside of work. (The same can be said about someone on the football pitch). However, I still feel reluctant to think that go-getting entrepreneurism could not co-exist with love and friendship. It may just be that because the deeply rooted culture of business is so dominated by an aggressive worldview (dog eat dog, litigation, survival of the fittest world), which are at times violently opposed to love and friendship, that there is no way to imagine and see anything different.

      Or if it could be imagined, it has not survived as a result of it being idealistic, impractical and unable to compete with less costly alternatives to doing business. But surely people are getting disillusioned and bored with this style of business and surely there is space to help us all dream of an alternative? Or are most people absolutely fine with it, and it just affects some. I know the ‘F’ in my Myers Briggs profile as an ENFP is a constant reminder that I’ll always have it in my mix.

      So what for you are some of the traits that you see in a kenachic form of entrepreneurship? I’d love to hear…..

  6. I think that we need to be constantly developing robust characters so that we can handle potential conflicts well and, crucially, keep a proper perspective – as Roger has mentioned.

    However, I don’t think this necessarily means we need to miss out on worthy opportunities, rather I think it means that we need to be in open dialogue with people and make ourselves accountable in the decision making process.

    There will be times when it is best to step aside. There will be times when it is not and thus it may be inevitable to ‘wound’ as Marijke says or ‘storm’ as Caleb says. It is how we manage our own perception and respond to the perception’s of others where the rubber hits the road.

    What we do in response to these challenges shows as much about our ability to love as anything else.

    I think that an entrepreneurial spirit and friendship/love can co-exist, but I’m not convinced that means always standing aside.Jobs may not simply represent success. They may be God’s call on our lives or may God’s opportunity for us for a season. These are important things.

    I know for me, finding a job that I believe in and can invest myself into is crucial for my energy levels and ability to perform creatively and productively. This runs far deeper than the desire for financial gain or worldly recognition.

  7. I think that we need to be constantly developing robust characters so that we can handle potential conflicts well and, crucially, keep a proper perspective – as Roger has mentioned.

    However, I don’t think this necessarily means we need to miss out on worthy opportunities, rather I think it means that we need to be in open dialogue with people and make ourselves accountable in the decision making process.

    There will be times when it is best to step aside. There will be times when it is not and thus it may be inevitable to ‘wound’ as Marijke says or ‘storm’ as Caleb says. It is how we manage our own perception and respond to the perception’s of others where the rubber hits the road.

    What we do in response to these challenges shows as much about our ability to love as anything else.

    I think that an entrepreneurial spirit and friendship/love can co-exist, but I’m not convinced that means always standing aside.Jobs may not simply represent success. They may be God’s call on our lives or may God’s opportunity for us for a season. These are important things.

    I know for me, finding a job that I believe in and can invest myself into is crucial for my energy levels and ability to perform creatively and productively. This runs far deeper than the desire for financial gain or worldly recognition.