Keep Your Friends Close

Which identity

Which identity


A perennial quote from Sun Tzu, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”

There are several explanations regarding the meaning of the statement. One relates to being able to anticipate the actions of one’s foes. Another relates to understanding the motivations of those who are one’s antagonists or rivals. Thus, it explains why some businesses thrive in a highly competitive marketplace while others exit for one reason or another. Sometimes it isn’t a question of anticipating the actions of the competition as much as not having the foresight to envision the next enhancement or not being the one clever enough to create a strong consumer desire for your product or service.

Friend or Enemy

This brings us to the question of how to accurately identify the friend who may actually be the wolf in sheep’s clothing. So many who have survived either domestic workplace abuse thought they had an ally who could be trusted with the private grousing or the sharing of hopes and desires. How many can attest to sharing the details of a proposal with a manager only to later discover those very details have become part and parcel of a project under another’s direction?

Is it an enemy who tells you outright that you’ve been blacklisted and will not be working in any industry anymore? Or is that actually an ally who’s providing notice that adjustments in your plans need to be made? Better to know than to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to make the car run when it has no gas tank or wheels.

With a certainty, there will be disparaging remarks that are only made out of earshot. They will relate to one’s character, work product, sanity and stability, and other matters that are cause for people to spurn and disassociate. Yes, they can come from an outright enemy. That venue is to be expected. In fact, it’s the grist of many soap operas. But how do we define the one who is our most trusted who drops a word or phrase that casts doubt and discourages?

And then there’s the one who spreads false rumors or attributes negative comments about a person or group that were never made. If no one brings up the subject with the one given credit for having made those statements, it becomes nearly impossible to put out the flames of destruction. Better to address the matter when there’s some inkling of trouble. In circles of good social responsibility, making the bad news public from the owner of the blot rather than have it blown out of proportion and raise the question of whether a cover-up was attempted is a prudent move.

Friends and enemies. Yes, it’s a good idea to think of many situations, both social and business, as a potential for re-enacting an episode of Big Brother. When we think of the management style of leading by example, we don’t have too far to look for a role model. While it may seem like paranoia, being prepared for and able to anticipate the pitfalls is both rational and reasonable.

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