Let’s be Frenemies

July 27, 2012

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?