The Time and Place for Real Connection

The primary driver in my life is connecting with people.

To my mind, these are the things that a good life is made of: friendships and connections filled with eye contact, a good story, shared experiences or backgrounds, similar dreams, sustained authentic engagement, and loyalty.

I’ve found that, as an HR leader, it can be fairly idealistic (and frankly a bad idea) to try to create friendships at work without some realistic expectations around politics, power, appearances, and long-term consequences. In addition, things change over time. Motivators, circumstances, shared commonalities and proximity are all subject to change overnight.  For most people, sustained connection and authenticity are not primary drivers in the workplace. Achievement, power, learning, networking or flat cash might be their goal. There’s nothing wrong with them. There was just some maturing and boundary setting to do on my end.

When I look back on the “Big Mistakes” I’ve made in my career, they’ve all been because I had unrealistic expectations of my work friends. I assumed that they would, and should, put our friendship above whatever other issues might drive one’s behavior in the workplace. I was dead wrong. They weren’t. They were behaving rationally to achieve their goals and, in most cases, to achieve the goals of the organization. They knew that friendship at work is just that – friendship at work – not some undying commitment to look out for one another at the expense of their own careers or the company’s goals.

Thankfully, I’m now more mindful of the need to respect the workplace for what it is and people for who they are. I am still addicted to connecting, but I can find more appropriate outlets than my inherently politically-fraught career path. I’ll continue to use platforms like Women of HR, HREvolution, Twitter and blogs to find other smart HR pros who are interested in connecting . . . with fewer potential complications and long-term consequences than finding career soul mates in one’s day to day work.  The hugs and comments and ambient connectivity associated with this smart group of HR pros is what allows me to do my job better.  I have deep connections with professional friends outside of work – who are actual friends – and this allows me to keep boundaries at work that work and maintain realistic expectations of my coworkers and bosses.

That’s a big start for a connection-hungry nerd like me.

Photo credit iStockphoto

About the Author

Franny Oxford

Franny Oxford, SPHR is an HR leader for Texas entrepreneurs and privately held companies. Franny is committed to helping all members of the HR profession become better risk takers and stronger questioners of the status quo. Franny's wife is an RN and her 4-year-old daughter is a Princess. Or a Dinosaur. Or sometimes both. Franny blogs at Do the Work and you can connect with her on Twitter as @Frannyo.


Chetna Setia

Hey Franny, I m from India and also a connection hungry like you…want to meet you…

Kimberly Roden

So happy to have finally met you in person Franny…even though we only had a few moments to chat! You are one of my “early” connections via Twitter and I’ll always be grateful for that.

Jennifer Payne

Franny, I’m happy to have connected with you (though very briefly) at HRevolution!

Joni Thomas Doolin

A big virtual hug to you (we will have to check with Tincup to see the psychological significance.) You are one of the most genuine, warm, caring, smart & funny people that I have met virtually in the past year – and I truly look forward to making that a solid IRL connection. Thank you for this post and thank you for being you. Joni


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