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The fuzzy line between business and personal

April 26, 2010
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I’ve had quite a few jobs in my day.  The ones that were pre-grad were summer jobs that were mainly to fund my party habit, save for the following school year and also so my parents wouldn’t have to be burdened by my need to drink every frigging day weekend.

When I graduated, I landed a great job as a systems consultant for an IT firm.  I applied my social skills that I developed in retail and quickly used them to befriend the following people in the workplace who would eventually make my job a hell of a lot easier:

The receptionist

Or as I like to call: the eyes and ears of the office.  People who aren’t at the executive level and who look down upon the receptionist are idiots and will always get the bottom of the barrel with anything.  They will be the last to know about any perks, their mail won’t be taken care of, their calls will be deprioritized and their faxes will somehow disappear.  If you tell a receptionst to “put a rush on it”, you think she’s going to do that if you treat her like shit?  Haha, think again.  Being nice to the receptionist will only help you in the long run because you’ll be the first to know about deliveries, shipment pick-ups, surprise visits from [insert exeuctive here], gossip, changes within the office, dibs on desks in the event of office moves etc.  Have the receptionist on your side and although you may not be an executive, your request will go a lot further than those who treat him/her like shit

The IT folks

Most of the time, the IT/tech support are locked away in the back room fixing shit or answering tech calls.  You don’t see them very often and if you do, you can’t really put a face to the name especially if all you do is call the help desk.  If you’re lucky and your IT/tech support is in your building, go and visit them.  See who’s who and trust me – get to know them and be their friend.  If your company has tight security that limits what you can install on your computer or access over the internet, the IT/tech guys will make it happen off the books.  Sure, corporate security will track usage and whatnot, but unless they run a script every night that scans every machine for inapproporate software, the higher-ups will never know.  Besides, if there is a program implemented that does this type of scan, your IT/tech guys who run the job will ‘forget’ to include your username or can tell you how to avoid it.  If you’re really good, you will even manage to get them to give you admin rights to your machine so you can download and install any software you want.  Trust me – you want to be in the IT team’s good books.

The EA

EAs should get more credit for what they do.  People often think that EAs only manage calendars but they’re the eyes and ears of the executive with which they assist.  If that exec is coming into the office and is in a pissy mood, your EA friend will alert you.  If you need an emergency time slot in said exec’s calendar, your EA friend will make it happen.  Trust me when I say that not all meetings booked in the exec’s calenar are true meetings – you’ll be surprised what an EA can do to massage the calendar to fit you in.

Befriending the EA will only make your life a hell of a lot easier.  EAs stick together so if you need a hard-to-get resource, meeting room, projector, office supplies, access to certain floors, or anything related to the office building – even security – the EA is your friend.  Treat them like shit and you’ll only end up doing the work yourself and spending more than half the time if you weren’t such a shithead and was nice to him/her from the beginning.

The Cafeteria Folks

You’d be surprised what you can get if you’re nice to the person who makes your bagel every morning.  All cafeterias in an office building extort employees during every breakfast and lunch; charging ridiculous fees for a slice of tomato or cheese.  Seriously, an extra $1 for a slice of cheese?  $0.60 for one slice of tomoato?  However, if you’re friends with the person who cooks for you every day, maybe they’ll “forget” to write the extras down.  Maybe the cashier you bid good morning and ask how her weekend was won’t charge you for the side cream cheese.  Bottom line:  piss and vinegar will only get you piss and vinegar.

The Boss

Now, I’m not one to kiss ass – I never was – but if your boss is a super cool person and someone you can actually hang out with, sometimes it’s hard to resist befriending him/her.  I’m usually very business oriented when it comes to work,  I rarely mix business with personal and I never overstep my boundaries.  But if you happen to become good friends with your boss, sometimes that line gets blurred and it makes it harder to determine where that line is.  What you normally wouldn’t say or do becomes a bit easier because the bonds of friendship often relax your stance and makes you drop your guard.  I have seen people behave a certain way that one would seem to think inappropriate because they’re friends with the boss but if not for the friendship, that shit wouldn’t fly.

I am friends with my director and he’s a super cool dude.  Because I would never abuse our friendship for the sake making my job easier, I find that I have to make more of an effort to act professional where as it wouldn’t even be a second thought if it were strictly business.  I find that I have to rethink certain things or modify my behavior in the office so that others won’t assume that my boss ‘lets me get away with things’ just because we’re friends (btw, he never does and I would never do anything that would make him have to cut me some slack).  I suppose you can say, though, that he does cut me a little more slack than the rest of the employees.  I tend to leave early for the day to pick up Kayla; even if I come into the office late and he doesn’t say anything.  I will work from home sometimes which I know he frowns upon but he lets me.  Other than those two things, it’s business as usual.

If you happen to become the boss’ friend, it does have its advantages.  You do get a bit more slack than the other employees and sometimes, depending on your boss, will get the goods on office politics.  I was really good friends with my old boss in my previous company and we would sit in his office for hours talking about business and other stuff and I got the downlow on a lot of company information.  In turn, I did whatever shitty project he put me on and I always did more than was asked to make sure that project was done correctly.  I came and went as I pleased and worked from home a lot.  I didn’t exactly stick to the dress code (business formal).   This doesn’t mean that I abused privileges – I always did my job and did it well.  I just didn’t have to dress up or stick to office hours to do so.

Being the boss’ friend does have its disadvantages too.  People won’t likely want to be close to you because they think you’ll go running to the boss.  Even if it’s not true, they will think so.  They’ll keep their distance and you’ll always be seen as ‘the boss’ favorite’.  If lay-offs are pending, they assume you’ll be safe.  If a cool new project comes out and even if you get assigned not by the boss but buy your resource manager, every one will assume that it is your friendship that got you on that project.  Basically, you may wind up like Chandler when he got promoted to supervisor and then every one called him “Boss Man Bing”.  They were nice to him but they didn’t want to be friends with him.  If you don’t want to be Boss Man Bing, then maybe it’s a good idea to keep your relationship with your boss strictly professional.

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