Unfortunately for me, I learned through the bitter experience that working with friends wasn’t exactly as fun as I thought it would be. Fortunately for me, I learned quite a lot from this experience alone.
For one whole year, I was working with a close friend of mine whom I knew very well since our days in university.
During our undergraduate years, the both of us would burn the midnight oil, trying to finish up a group assignment. We’d frequently share silly stories over coffee before classes had even started. We had bonded over books and television series. Inevitably, we had even travelled and explored a foreign country together with a group of our very close friends.
We were tight.
Until we started working together. The chances of us working with each other were somewhat slim at that time, so we were quite surprised that we ended up seeing each other at our workplace one gloomy Monday morning.
I suppose it was all fine and dandy at first. We would hang out for lunch and we would casually joke about work circumstances that weren’t going in our favour.
Naturally, as our responsibilities piled up, so did our stress levels. Every time this happened, there was bound to be an argument waiting to happen before the day ended.
There were times when our lunch time was filled with bitter silence.
Looking back on our situation, I can only laugh at it now. Because I thought I knew her. I thought there wasn’t anything left to discover about her personality or her habits. Yet, working with my friend proved to me that I learned more of what she was capable of as a person in the space of one year than what I could learn of her in the 4 years I knew her in university.
During my time there, I was struggling to separate the feelings of personal camaraderie with my friend and professional work ethics. At times, I felt like my loyalty had been shifted and began crumbling before me.
Then, inevitably, there were feelings of jealousy. It was an ugly feeling and something that I didn’t think I had it in me. I hated the feeling. And I hated that I had to feel that way towards my friend.
As it were, one of our superiors favoured her more because of her diligence and efficiency. It wasn’t that much of a huge shock for me as those were admirable and valuable qualities to have in a professional setting. However, it did make me more self-aware of my own capabilities as an employee. I was constantly evaluating and re-evaluating myself and possibly trying to be better at what I could and should do.
I suppose it was also human nature for me to look away whenever my superior praised my friend more than she would for me. Regardless, I wasn’t wholly blinded by jealousy. Rather, it helped me attempt to become better as a member of the workforce.
Eventually, my friend was promoted to a slightly higher position than I was and I could no longer relate to her workplace experiences. Did I grow resentful that she was doing better than me in a short amount of time? Honestly, yes. Although I slowly realised that I was being selfish and after a while, I was genuinely happy for her.
Even after all that pandemonium, we still remain as friends to this day. I never really had the guts to tell her of how I felt during such a harrowing experience.
Partly because I didn’t want to burden her with my immaturity (in my honest opinion, it felt like that to me) in understanding the differences between working and setting aside personal feelings.
And thus, my advice to those in a similar predicament is that you will need to distinguish that fine line between your own personal feelings and professionalism in a work place. If you and your friend can already keep this in mind, then you wouldn’t have to worry about your friendship being thrown away and having it to be eaten alive by measly work politics.