James Leroy Wilson's blog

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Friendship in the Workplace

A few days ago, I commented on a Bryan Caplan blog post on The Case Against Education, this one on social networking to help one land a job.

Caplan wrote: "A cordial workplace is probably more productive than a friendly one."

 I commented: 
 Two anecdotes: Penn Gillette said he and Teller don't socialize much away from work. And Mike & Mike of the ESPN talk show have said the same. Penn & Teller have been around some 35 years; Mike & Mike for 13. I suspect both duos stayed together for so long for the very reason that they're not close friends. Their disagreements, then, don't get personal and fracture the professional relationship. 
It's kind of misleading to say that Penn & Teller are merely "cordial" after all of these years, or that Mike & Mike aren't friends - especially as both duos travel extensively together. I heard Penn discuss his relationship with Teller sometime earlier in the year on the Adam Carolla podcast, and Mike and Mike discussed their conscious decision to keep a certain distance (e.g., their kids are different ages, they work at the same place but commute from opposite directions) during a talk about Tiger Woods and his formerly close friendship with an ex-caddy.

I recall an American Masters program on Richard Rodgers that portrayed his relationship with his main collaborator, Oscar Hammerstein II, in that gray area that was beyond "cordial" but definitely not "best friends." They worked together well, and what they provided the world - from Oklahoma to The Sound of Music - was astounding.

Perhaps the best workplace is one where you like and are able to cooperate with co-workers and bosses, without wanting to hang out with them all the time, or feeling obligated to do so.  


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