Alliances at work

Two types of alliance at work

Throughout my work life, I’ve come to realize people come to build different relationships at work, they happen to ally on different grounds.

A first type of alliance is an alliance on mutual benefits, where you and I team up to serve our respective interests. It’s a “you do this for me, and I do that for you” agreement.

A second type is an alliance on purpose, where you and I team up for a third interest, the purpose of the work. This type of alliance doesn’t base on our respective interests, but on the purpose of the work we agreed to take, a purpose external to both of us, a “let’s work together towards that goal” agreement.

In real work life, things are however not so clear. Often, the three interests are present: yours, mine, and the work purpose. Yet, the distinction is still pertinent: in each situation, the “mutual interest” or the “third interest” tonality of alliance will prevail.

A personal preference

I have a personal preference for basing my alliances on purpose. To me, they cater for healthy work relationships. And this does not mean I am against friendship, kindness, or empathy at work. I simply do favour teaming up on purpose. I don’t believe I am at work to make deals between friends, but rather to serve a higher purpose, to contribute to something.

And this got me in trouble.

I have angered people because I have given priority to the third interest and poorly served theirs. And I’ve come to realize that some of these people probably thought that, because of a friendly relationship, we were in a “mutual benefit” type of alliance.

I’ve also seen people actively trying to ally with me on mutual interest ground and felt uncomfortable with that. I want to avoid committing to someone’s personal interest or to have them commit to mine, at the cost of purpose.

Open questions

Alliance is a strategy, a mean to an end. It’s about finding strategies that match our needs and our vision of the world. Yet, I wonder: where does that difference of alliance preference come from?

And is a third type of alliance possible, one where the three interests (and others)are met? Would it then be a matter of balance?

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