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Managing Your Workplace Relationships

by on October 12, 2018

Picture this: the library where you work is your second home. You spend more waking hours there than you do with your spouse, and your coworkers know the intricacies of your daily life. You spend ample time together outside work, and you count them among your closest friends — almost akin to family, in fact. Sounds ideal, doesn’t it? Not necessarily, according to experts.

A recent New York Times interview[1] with Ask a Manager blogger Alison Green discusses the potential pitfalls that could arise from viewing your colleagues as an extension of your family. Workplace animosity, of course, is not ideal, but being too intertwined with coworkers can ultimately be just as toxic. “It often means that boundaries get violated and people are expected to show inappropriate amounts of commitment and loyalty,” Green says.

It may sound counterintuitive, but it’s true. Imagine you are very close friends with your boss and receive a job offer from another library that would greatly enhance your career. Although you would benefit from making such a move, it might feel awkward leaving your friend. Or, you may feel uncomfortable saying no to a friend who asks you to cover more hours than you’re willing to work.

Harvard Business Review tackles the same topic in a recent article as well[2]. Authors Darko Lovric and Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic note several famously successful pairs who didn’t always see eye to eye: Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, Miles Davis and John Coltrane, and Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. In these examples, differences of opinion often forced the duos to work through their disagreements, finding new sources of innovation. Too much harmony, the authors argue, can lead to complacency and inaction. This effect can be especially toxic in libraries, where keeping up with change is necessary for the organization’s survival.

No one is arguing for a dysfunctionally combative workplace, but occasional stress and conflict can be good for an organization’s overall productivity. They can also make it easier for you to stand up for yourself.

The biggest takeaway from Green’s interview is that it’s okay to put yourself first and treat work as work, as opposed to something you do solely out of the goodness of your heart. Although most administrations do not actively set out to take advantage of their employees, remain mindful that, at the end of the day, their loyalty lies with ensuring the library’s success. Therefore, set limits when you need them, and don’t feel guilty saying no to things because you might disappoint your friends. It’s perfectly fine to be friendly with your colleagues, but be sure to take care of yourself in the meantime. It just may help you and your library after all.

References and Resources

[1] Herrara, Tim. “Your Workplace Isn’t Your Family (and That’s O.K.!).” New York Times, August 13, 2018. Accessed October 2, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/13/smarter-living/your-workplace-isnt-your-family-and-thats-ok.html.

[2] Lovric, Darko and Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic. “Too Much Team Harmony Can Kill Your Creativity.” Harvard Business Review, June 28, 2018. Accessed October 2, 2018. https://hbr.org/2018/06/too-much-team-harmony-can-kill-creativity