Loyalty and friendship at work

Loyalty to friends should not trump being true to your own values.

Some of my closest friends are ones I made at work.  As we all know, we spend more time with these folks than with most of the friends we have outside of work. We have shared experiences, a shared language and a shared context—all of which contribute to very strong friendships.

This is both good and bad.

Good is clear. Why would I say it’s bad? Recently I faced a situation where I had to choose between being loyal to my friend and doing what I thought was right, which would hurt my friend and jeopardize our friendship. It was purely political and would have no negative impact on the company. C’mon—the direction is clear when you know your actions will harm the company—as Nancy Reagan said “Just Say No!”

To take the action I thought was right, my friend would “lose”—one of his political rivals would “win”—and my action would be the catalyst that would bring all of this out into the open. I contemplated doing nothing, but unfortunately this was not an option. I admit it; sometimes I’m a chicken!

I had a few days to consider what I wanted to do before I had to act. From the outside, I am sure it seems black or white—do what’s right! But, I am fiercely loyal to my friend. This friend has stood by me many times when work was nearly unbearable and had helped me in more ways than I could possibly cover in a blog entry. I hated the thought of causing my friend any pain or trouble.

After three sleepless nights, I had to step outside of the moment and virtually go back to my favorite beach on Nantucket. I listened to wave sounds on my iPod. The answer slowly formed in my brain, like the tide coming in: do what I think is right. If my friend was the person I thought he was, he would not want me to do anything else. He would not ask me to swap my personal integrity for friendship. Loyalty to your friends does not come before loyalty to your own values and beliefs. Staying loyal to your own values makes it much easier to be happy at work, even in a difficult situation.

How did it turn out? Without compromising the situation, I was able to give him a head’s up before it happened and this helped. I was definitely not his favorite person for a few days. I stayed true to my values and today, our friendship is back to normal—all friendships go through highs and lows, and the ones at work are no different.

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