How far do you carry this relationship thing? I mean, at what point does a focus on relationship jeopardize the organization? Could it be that you value a relationship so much that you can make organizational decisions around that relationship? As you consider these questions, many scenarios might come to mind where the answer could go either way.
A few years ago, I was confronted with this scenario. I was a manager in an organization and a co-manager was considering a job change and moving his family clear across the country. As he confided in me and we discussed this, I had to make a choice. Was I going to be a company man and tell leadership of this risk, or was I going to sow into this relationship and help walk this friend through a major life decision. I think I made the right choice and I was both friend and company man, let me explain.
Considering the questions above bring up mission. What is your mission in life, what is the mission of your organization, and where do the two merge? First of all, if there is no merge between the two, you can do one of three things:
- Acknowledge it and say it’s ok and that this job is just a means to an end;
- Leave the company and find one where the missions merge;
- Or, start your own company and hire people with merged missions.
My personal mission is to influence others and create a great culture at work, all through modeled behavior of leadership. Now, there is no perfection here at all, just a mission; a life journey. The mission of my current workplace is to provide the best patient care with the best staff. I do not directly provide patient care, but I do my part to be a good staff member and provide good staff members. That is where missions align, and in large part, why I enjoy working where I do.
Let’s dig deeper: what is the best staff? I am sure that it is an underlying mission for every organization to have the best staff. Well, to me the best staff is one that is aligned with the organization mission and happy to be coming to work every day. They are engaged in their work and have a reasonably good relationship with their immediate supervisor, regardless of what their role is in the organization. Going back to my friend who was leaving. We were with a different company then that had a different mission, and the relationship he had with his immediate supervisor was less than stellar. Is it best for the company that he stays? He was disengaged at best, trying to manage a flailing relationship with his supervisor, and generally unhappy about his work. How does that help the company? This was my thought process as I helped him work through the decision. It was also my rationalization for not talking to leadership about his pending decision/announcement.
After my friend left, I was called out and heavily criticized for not being a company man. It was after this that I decided that the missions no longer merged — maybe they never did. Since my job to me is more than a means to an end, and at that time I was in no position to start another company, I ended up leaving a year or so after my friend left. After a while, I ended up picking an opportunity where the missions aligned much more closely and where relationships are valued.
If this happened where I worked today, I would tell the person who walked with his friend and co-worker through a major life decision and didn’t tell me about it, that I was proud of him or her. I would thank them for being a good friend and assure them that this is what comes with an organization that values relationships. Ultimately this is both good for the relationship and good for the organization.
Do you have a good enough relationship with your immediate supervisor, regardless of their position in the organization, to talk to them about a potential opportunity? Does that ever really happen? I would say that most certainly it does, although it is rare. I wish I could give you three simple steps to develop this kind of relationship with your supervisor. Unfortunately, there is not much you can do about it if it doesn’t exist for you, unless you are willing to take on tremendous risk. The risk, of course, is a negative and immediate response from your supervisor if you discuss a potential opportunity. Do not do this unless there is a foundation of trust. Your supervisor is either ok with that type of discussion or they are not. Either they become defensive and try to manipulate you through the process, or they are supportive of your goals and understand that what is best for you is best for the company. How far do you carry this relationship thing? In my case, hopefully to the very end of my life.