Let’s be Frenemies

Work friends are a strange concept. You’re thrown together 8 hours a day, 5 days a week and expected to not only get on but to combine your differences to work together. And then you’re expected to want to hang out in your own time, go to office parties… oh and add each other on facebook too. If not you’re bring rude right?

I guess that’s why, no matter how much we say it won’t happen, when you leave a place of work you rarely end up keeping much contact with these people. There are exceptions of course, but as harsh as it sounds, when the inevitable does happen it usually becomes pretty obvious that the friendships were never really that genuine in the first place.

As weird as it is in employment, I’ve found that the issue can be even more complex when you run your own business. In a highly competitive market like the wedding industry, it can be all to easy to accidently fall into the frienemy trap. You chat to these people on twitter, you congratulate each other on achievements, you maybe even recommend them to clients or socialise at industry events… but let’s be honest with ourselves, some of these people you probably can’t stand.

Frenemies are a dangerous thing. Surrounding yourself with people that don’t really like you (or who you don’t really like) is not a healthy way to live or work. Someone usually ends up getting hurt when they find out the friendship they thought was genuine really wasn’t (which usually only happens when one person is being fake), or you eventually end up having an almightly public bust up (when you both can’t really stand each other). To me, there is nothing worse than fakery (except when it comes to hair colour!) If someone doesn’t like me I’d rather know now that find out later. There is nothing more hurtful than finding out someone you thought you were close to has been bitching about you behind your back. To me, that’s a hundred times worse than just avoiding the person all together.

Of course that’s not to say that genuine friendships can’t be formed with people you meet through work. In fact my closest confidants (bar my husband of course!) are all girls I’ve met through running this blog, and all of whom run their own wedding businesses. None of them are other wedding bloggers though… maybe that’s the difference.

Is this post making you uncomfortable by the way? There’s probably a reason for that…

I read an interesting take on this topic from Liene Stevens a few weeks ago. She said, “A frienemy market is exactly what it sounds like: most of the professionals pretend to like each other, but in actuality can’t stand one another. “I love your idea!” they’ll crow, with their fingers crossed behind their back. They never share real ideas for fear that you’ll steal them, even if you’ve never stolen anything in your life. They’ll dismiss your accomplishments as no big deal, even if they are a very big deal and will try to guilt-trip you into thinking that you shouldn’t be so proud of whatever it is you may be celebrating.”

Unfortunately I have to admit to being able to see many of the things she describes in the rest of her article within the UK wedding industry. There are so many of us that hold off from sharing ideas, or who secretly bitch about other people behind their backs. Come on, we’ve all done it. Our industry is in a weird place right now. There’s a lot of new kids on the block, there’s a lot of great (and no so great) ideas flying about and there’s a lot of us with very different opinions on what makes a good business. The latter is not a bad thing, but for some reason, and to some people, it seems to be.

In my opinion there’s space for us all. We’re all different. We all have our own ideas. We all have something unique to offer. There’s no need to bitch behind people’s backs or feel envious or threatened by other people’s successes. I’m not saying we all need to suddenly become BFFs, but the bitchiness and fakery needs to stop.

So what do you think? Do you think our industry can ever become a genuinely friendly place or will be always be secretly forming our own little cliques whilst faking friendship with everyone else? Do we need to worry what all this fakery might be doing to our industry? Do you hold off sharing ideas, or inciting innovation for fear of being copied? Do you smile through gritted teeth at industry events while secretly hope you’ll be more sucessful than everybody else?

25 comments

  1. Really interesting post and a tough subject to tackle!
    It is really hard as I have spoken to people who have mentioned ideas to people only to be outright copied but then on the flip side I’ve mentioned ideas to people myself only for them to be super helpful and we’ve ended up bouncing ideas off each other and getting even more excited and inspired!
    I think that making friends is really important, as I don’t think I would have gotten to this point without the lovely friends that i’ve made over the past couple of years!

  2. Post author

    I agree Leah. I have friends who are also in the industry who i trust implicitly, we’re genuine friends and i love having them to bounce off. i do think there are some people out there (im sure we’ve all come across them!) who on the outside are so nice to everyone its hard to trust.
    on one hand i wish everyone was honest but on the other would that make the whole place even bitchier?! who knows! not me…!

  3. This is such a tough topic, I genuinely like everyone but for my own sanity my close confidantes are all out of industry; the main reason being is that I don’t want any pressure on my industry friendships and I get to enjoy people for who they are and not what I can get out of them (or think I can get out of them)

    So, although there are a lot of people I love out of respect for personal boundaries, I try to give people the space that they deserve and I live by the policy – if I wouldn’t say it to your face I won’t say it behind your back.

    I like that there are lots of new people, I had a year of being lazyish with so much going on in ‘real world’ that my wedding game was weaker Tesco’s extra value tea. Seeing what other people achieved woke me up out of my laziness and drove me to stop being mediocre.

    I think that I mentioned in my guest post you are always going to have professional jealousy, but for me I’ve not lived the life, made the sacrifices or the decisions that others have had to make their success. Oddly, I am glad that others are successful as it validates the industry and makes it professional. After all if it isn’t for the success and ground that others break, none of us would be taken seriously at all. Real talk, we need each other whether we want to accept it or not.

    My last point on my long winded soliloquy is the best advice I ever had is that: my plans are secret, but my actions transparent. I have no need to know what others are doing, as it isn’t my achievement or business and I feel that everyone has the right to professional boundaries. To paraphrase Robert Frost, good boundaries make good digital neighbours.
    fin.

    I secretly want to kill you, just saying

  4. Post author

    ooh i like that quote amma. nicking that! ps i hate you too :-P

    i think im quite an open and honest person about who i like and dont. i hate fakery more than anything really.

  5. If I don’t like someone I’ll politely decline to interact with them, but also I’ve been forced to reassess the way I feel. There are some people who I’ve loved and then gone cool on, or some people I wasn’t fans of who I realised are bloody amazing. I guess you can’t trust everyone, but the most important thing is that you trust yourself; and harder than that is sometimes having to let go of people when it doesn’t work.

  6. Very interesting post. I am just about to embark on a huge career change from working FT for over 2 decades to freelance writing. I have been asking ‘friends’ I have met online questions about how to break into freelancing, and general questions about how to get published etc. Surprisingly, everyone has been amazing! No-one has yet rejected my request for help and the people I have asked have been very liberal with giving me advice. I suppose there is so much work out there for writers with the way the internet is so perhaps there’s not much fear about sharing tips? I like it so far. Ask me again in another year or so.

  7. Another reason that it’s important to me to have friends in the industry is that none of my ‘real life’ friends really understand what I’m going on about when I talk about work!

  8. I think this is really interesting and you’ve hit the nail on the head. When I first started twitter my account name was: @KatieValeDesigns and I was trying too hard to be accepted and I wanted to be part of the “in crowd”. I was the geeky girl in the corridor offering to carry your bags and do your school homework!

    I “lol’d” at conversations that I didn’t find funny, but it was from an influencial tweeter….so I better get in there right?? I’d #ff & #ww until the cows come home, in the need to be accepted and #ff / #ww’d back!

    Then about a year ago I just decided that my business is my name. My business is me. And so I changed my bullshit. I changed my twitter name to @KatieJayneVale I know it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but for me it was. I almost felt as if I wasn’t hiding behind a veil anymore (excuse the pun); and I quite happily tweet about my business and my personal thoughts too.

    I thought people wouldn’t like it. I thought it would loose me business, but I couldn’t stand being fake. It’s not me in real life, so why was I doing it in a social media capacity? Totally the opposite. People who contact me now already feel as if they know me. They already know what I’m in the middle of or if I’ve just fallen over and got a cut knee.

    So whilst I may have gone off topic slightly….what I’m trying to say is….yes there is bullshit out there. But you can uncover it if need be. And I’d also like to officially & publicly apologise if I appeared a few years ago as one of the try hards. Sorry.

    xx

  9. Oooh I like! Have been struggling a little bit with this the last few weeks in the respect of feeling rather unpopular but then I realised I’ve hardly been putting myself out there as I’m just not that way inclined with people I don’t know very well.

    Having always had men as the majority of my mates and as colleagues I’ve found the transition into a predominantly female industry quite tough. I’m feel happy to have found a few friends that are likeminded though. I think it’s a matter of treating everyone as colleagues until you make that transition to friendship through socialising or just recognising you’re on the same wavelength. After all, when you start in a new office you don’t suddenly start to share your life by the coffee machine or go round kissing everyone and showering them in compliments every five minutes (cringe).

    My biggest hate is seeing someone bitching about someone privately and then be online telling that same person they love them (+xxxxxx). There’s just no need for it. You don’t have to be friends with everyone and it’s ok to not like someone (and indeed, someone not to like you) so there’s no need to be rude (you wouldn’t ignore a colleague you dislike when they said morning in the post room) but just distance yourself. But I do think it’s important to trust in some people as I’ve found the support of my industry friends invaluable. I also think it’s very important to keep up friendships outside of the industry too though – these inspire me and keep me grounded I think!

  10. Oh sister, frenemies are the gift that keep on giving…complete and utter bullshit.

    As you know my thoughts and opinions on this subject are so exhaustingly long and i don’t want to darken your pretty pages especially when the gorgeous @amma has hit everynail on the head.

    Great post.

    Love you long time. xx

  11. I don’t see that the wedding industry is any different from any other industry, really. There are always going to be people that you like more than others.

    Some (but almost definitely not all!) of your work colleagues may end up being genuine friends while others are consigned to the pile of people you tolerate in order to get the job done.

    As Emma said, if you don’t like someone, you can still have a perfectly civil and professional relationship with them.

    Compared to the last industry I worked in, networking is a genuine pleasure as I’ve met some lovely, creative and inspiring people. They’re not all destined to be my best mates but I probably wouldn’t want them to be, as it’s nice to have some separation between my personal life and what I do for a living.

  12. I think Laura’s right. This does happen in most industries and sadly, it’s a female thing. I suspect it’ll never change. I’ve made some amazing friends in this industry and some people I respect enormously, but may not ever actually become friends with. And some I can’t resist being blunt with when I think they are being arses. Us Scorpios have a sting in our tale. Best to be as honest as you can without being mean, I reckon.

  13. Another great and truthful post.
    I have made some great industry friends (god I hope they think of me as a friend!) I am about to move to Perth Australia. Will it be out of sight out of mind me thinks?

  14. I learnt pretty fast in this industry that what people say to you, and what they do or say behind your back are two very different things. I guess what’s important is that you act with integrity in a way that you believe to be right, and just be aware that not perhaps everyone or everything is what it may seem. But generally if people don’t like me, or what I have to say/do I say fuck ‘em. You can’t win ‘em all.

  15. Brilliant article. I’ve experienced both points made here….I left the “full time day job” back in March and can count on one hand the number of people who kept in touch. Many so called “friends” actually turned out to be haters…those people who were just plain jealous I had the guts to leave and follow my dream.
    And now as a professional in this crazy industry I love so much, I find myself facing the “frenemy” phenomenon. And asa newbie I have been bitten quite hard in the ass. But I learn and move on because there are some absolute gems out there. I am so glad I have had the pleasure to work with many of them. People who, like myself, are a bit mad (creativley speaking!), genuine and just really bloody nice!
    Keep the faith, always. We were’nt born to follow! (yeah I’m a Bon Jovi fan lol)

  16. I am sure that any industry will never have all genuine and nice people. There are lot of people who are not gonna stop bitching or change their ways. I once had a colleague who never shared her ideas or knowledge. You cannot change such people. We just have to deal with them. Be nice to everyone even if we don’t want to.

  17. True friends stab you in the front. ~Oscar Wilde. Remember that no true friend will ever say anything behind your back. If you don’t value the opinions of the haters, doubters, delicate artists or wannabes it will never matter what they think.

  18. AMEN I totally agree! In the wedding blog world, I have befriended several other bloggers because I see things that way you see them- there’s no reason for us to be competitors. Brides can read as many blogs as they want each and every day- and they do! However, some of those people who I was friends with didn’t see things the same way, and still couldn’t get past the frenemy status. Which is so disappointing. Now I have a few blogger friends who I know I can turn to for advice and to share things with them. I definitely wish the whole wedding industry would just GET OVER the competition and “frenemy” crap… but maybe it’s human nature??

  19. Lucy Ball

    Hi, I normally don’t comment but this post has really touched me.

    I closed my beautiful wedding boutique back in January. I’ve been at the helm for over ten years and have many friends in the industry. There were lots reasons for the closure, the biggest is deeply personal. I managed the closure personally and did my utmost to ensure all of the suppliers and brides met up and did not lose out, as much as humanly possible. I’m very proud of that now although at the time it was horrendous.

    The reason I managed the closure was, despite my personal situation, I’m an honest person and I’m proud of every dress I sold and all of the relationships I formed. I call a spade a spade, white is white etc. For the most part everyone has understood the why’s and wherefore’s but there are a few ‘friends’ who have taken it upon themselves to invent an entirely different version of events. I suppose it was naive of me to think that I could continue to work in this industry without some form of jealousy/bitchiness but I tell you something, it has made me very thick skinned!

    FYI – Lucy Ball Bridalwear coming soon… ;-)

  20. I’m a newby still in the industry, I haven’t experienced any real bitchiness so to speak, and I have in fact been completely blown away by how encouraging and welcoming most of the community has been!

    I just want to give you all a hug for being so bloomin lovely to me actually!

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