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The loneliness of the modern office team member (ft.com)
81 points by 0-_-0 12 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 104 comments






Seems like a lot of comments are discussing how to address loneliness, so I'll share one tactic I've learned: you have to host.

Everybody wants to join a meetup or club or whatever, but if you organize the event(s), and then invite people you like (from work or your kids' friends' parents) then you get the event you want and you strengthen those friendships. If you can make it happen consistently, those relationships can get quite strong over a few years, plus your friends will invite their friends and it gets better over time.

The only downside is having to do event planning: clean your house (or pick a venue: park, hackerspace, church, cafe, gym, clubhouse if your apartment complex has one), email/text invitations, plan food, etc. This is a skill, though, and you get better with practice.

(Edit: obviously rona makes this harder but e.g. my wife and I have a zoom call we do most mornings where we do a workout video and hang out for ~10-15 minutes. It's a lot better than nothing!)


"The only downside is having to do event planning: clean your house (or pick a venue: park, hackerspace, church, cafe, gym, clubhouse if your apartment complex has one), email/text invitations, plan food, etc. This is a skill, though, and you get better with practice."

Not only is it a skill, but it's very difficult to make that sort of effort when you are depressed, which many lonely people are.


> Not only is it a skill, but it's very difficult to make that sort of effort when you are depressed, which many lonely people are.

It's true. TBH to the extent I've done/helped with it, I've learned more about making it easy than doing it well. The easiest options I know about:

- hike (you literally just need to agree on a trail and a time. People can bring their own food, or you can do it in the afternoon so it doesn't overlap with a meal)

- hang out in a park/at the beach. Almost as easy as a hike but you do need food. This can just be pizza and drinks. Bring a barbecue and a cooler of (veggie) burgers/hot dogs, drinks, chips and dip if you want to get fancy

- game night: almost the same as the park but you'd do it in your house (or apartment clubhouse). Slightly more clean-up, but food can be very easy and low-key (takeout, pizza, salad). This is easy to do regularly, too, and you can change the games depending on who's there, so it's got broad appeal. Board games are an obvious classic, and/or people can bring laptops, or you can set up a projector and an xbox. My roommates did this for years and we probably had over a hundred different guests at one point or another. People started bringing their own TVs and xboxes

- dinner party/potluck: like game night, but for a group that likes to cook this can be super fun. You don't actually have to make much because there are N dishes, so you eat a 1/N portion of each. Also, if you do it regularly, sometimes everyone agrees they're too tired to cook and you just all go in on takeout and drinks, which is fun too.

- group workouts: just need a gym and a time (or a park, you can do an outdoor workout)

- meet at a bar: not even really hosting, but if you suggest it and get everyone to agree on a time, it actually is hosting

(Finally: IME people are happy to venmo you for food if you ask in advance. Especially for recurring events this can be good to do, so that hosting stays fun for you)


It depends on the severity of the depression, but people who are depressed can struggle to get out of bed, shower, eat, or brush their teeth. Many things that non-depressed people find easy are excruciatingly difficult for depressed people. Just picking up the phone and calling someone might be a struggle.

Then there's the problem that many activities that might have seemed interesting and fun to do while the person was not depressed often seem uninteresting or meaningless when they are depressed.

Finally, there's all the self-recrimination and self-loathing that comes from knowing you could "easily" have done all sorts of things to make your life better and reach out to people but just not done them, which spirals people even further in to depression.

It's a really tough cycle to break.


Sometimes there is no interest or people just don't show up. I tried to organize a neighborhood virtual game night a half year ago in my neighborhood, and there wasn't any interest.

It made me feel more alone, and embarrassed for evening trying.


Advice doesn’t need to apply to everyone to be useful. Obviously if you’re struggling with depression you’re not going to start hosting events. You’re completely right.

But if you just moved to a new city and want to deepen your friendships this is fantastic advice. A non zero chunk of lonely people aren’t depressed, just lonely.


The worst thing about depression is how difficult it makes it to deal depression.

this mindset is also exactly how good organizing in the workplace happens

Alternative viewpoint: Everyone is hyper-stimulated by modern entertainment and lovable hobbies, therefore making friends at work is becoming harder to do because we're all bifurcated in our free time. Our interests used to be more basic, more shared, our community was tighter knit. Now, I feel the Internet and consumerism has allowed a massive blossoming of new hobbies, DIY, go it your own way, hang out by yourself activities. Either that, or something like online gaming, where you're finding a digital community.

Especially during the pandemic, I became very used to hanging out with only my partner, and I think our bubble has amplified my introverted habits.


The pandemic is a bit different from what was before because we're not really given a choice. That being said, I agree, and I think it's not just hobbies. If you think about music, Spotify exposes people to much wider array of choices than what was there before. It used to be that people had a common cultural thread through the radio and television. Now, you can find your own niche community online, and listen to very niche music customized to your very specific preferences on Spotify. Even porn is getting increasingly niche. I find that often, even friends who like similar music genres to mine don't really appreciate tunes I share with them, because everyone has diverged so much. Politics are getting super divisive too, with no tolerance for different viewpoints.

I'm not sure what's the antidote to that. I do think that in many ways, technology is driving people apart, and I'm afraid we're headed the way of Japan (hikikomori). I think some people will choose to remain socially active and others will withdraw. At some level, interacting with other human beings is challenging, it takes effort, you have to want to do it.


I agree, but it's been the case for a long time, and directly correlated to the propagation of the cell phone.

I remember I went to a summer camp at college some 20+ years ago now. It was a blast, and I made a ton of friends because it was just pretty boring if you weren't forcing yourself to be out and about.

By the time I went to college for real, anticipating the same experience, I was rather rudely awakened. Everyone was on their phone at any time, so it was less natural to strike up a conversation with someone. And this was -before- the Iphone, so I imagine it's even worse today.


I think there's a lot of truth in your comment. I mentioned this elsewhere but as we hang out with the same people, our interests begin to align. This is what has always happened in the past and will hopefully happen again once we've realized that the Internet is death to sociality.

Yes! I have found this to happen a over lockdown with my housemates. Not surprisingly, I recommend communal living.

Thats a really good point.

Haven't our work relationships always been superficial? I'm not with these people because I want to be friends with them, I'm with them because I want to earn a living. If I find a friend along the way that's great, but I don't talk with 99.9% of the people I've ever worked with and don't much miss them.

This kind of "anonymous" work is relatively recent. It's not how humans lived and worked for the majority of our existence. Before the industrial revolution, the vast majority of people worked in agriculture and most definitely knew who they were working with: their family, extended family and neighbors. Similarly, women were socializing while weaving clothes etc.

This atomized "biorobot" view of the employee is quite new and doesn't seem very healthy.


Perhaps because until recently a "career" meant working for one company for 35 years, likely in the same city. With that kind of stability, long-term friendships can blossom.

It's harder if you're changing companies every 2-3 years and cities every 5-6 (as seems common enough in Tech at least).

Digital nomads are the vanguard—look to them to see what works and what doesn't.


Yeah, given the shift to strangers, I don't know why anyone would think it's strange that we aren't certain to make friends with these people.

But that's true of a lot of life isn't it?

You get very little choice who you go to school with, and yet many people make lifelong friends at school. Even as I traverse middle age I'm still good friends with half a dozen people I went to school with, and on friendly speaking terms with at least a couple of dozen more.

Work does seem different though: relationships often don't hold in the same way.

I stay in touch with relatively few people out of the hundreds or (low) thousands I've worked with over the years. The vast majority of them are from one company where I worked for nearly 10 years, and most of them joined in the first 3 or 4 years of that 10 or were already there when I started.

I suspect a lot of it boils down to the amount of "quality" time you spent together - directly interacting and sharing experiences - versus those you swap in and out with.


Sometimes the only thing in common you have is where you work and this isn't enough to keep the realtionship going after they have left. With real friends you'll have some other common experiences that help maintain the bond. So, yes, the amount of quality time spent together out of a forced situation, such as sharing office space, is a big factor.

True, and it depends on whether you've geographically moved over the years. I found that (unfortunately) ends friendships that would/could have developed.

> I'm not with these people because I want to be friends with them, I'm with them because I want to earn a living.

False dichotomy. Building relationships and earning a living aren't mutually exclusive.

Building healthy, lasting relationships with your peers isn't necessarily required to get a job done, but it certainly makes it more enjoyable. Of course not everyone is going to be interested in authentic relationships at work, but that doesn't mean that nobody wants to be friends at the office.

If you can only view your work peers as pure business interactions, you're missing out.


Do you find you're still friends with a lot of people you worked with at your previous positions?

As a middle aged dude who's been in tech for 25 years, I can say that literally all of my close friends at this point in life were previous coworkers.

Especially if you relocate away from your hometown for a job, I'm not sure why that would be surprising to anyone. You spend at least 8 hours a day with these people, it only makes sense you'd eventually build some connections with them. And as the parent post points out, it certainly makes the days more enjoyable when you've built healthy relationships with your peers.

And come to think of it, most people 30+ I know seem to have friend groups of almost exclusively current or former coworkers. I don't think I'm by any means unique.


It's funny, I thought this was going the exact opposite direction when I read "As a middle aged dude who's been in tech for 25 years". As another middle aged dude who's been in tech for 25 years, that describes none of the people I know in my age group. Sure, some of us have actual friends that were coworkers, but it's one or two people and somewhat tangential friendship.

If it were just you & I comparing our individual anecdata I'd have chalked it up to that, but this feels like perhaps there's something more going on. I suppose one explanation is that people who form close bonds with coworkers are going to be more likely to hanging out with others who form close bonds with coworkers and vice versa?


> I suppose one explanation is that people who form close bonds with coworkers are going to be more likely to hanging out with others who form close bonds with coworkers and vice versa?

I mean, they are most likely to be hanging out with friends they made at work, who at that moment would also be hanging out with friends they made at work.


> Do you find you're still friends with a lot of people you worked with at your previous positions?

I'm still friends with the previous coworkers that I formed the strongest friendships with.

Just like pretty much every social situation, not every relationship can be a strong one. There will be a lot of weak ones that fall away when circumstances change (e.g. leaving school, moving to a new town, getting a new hobby and having less interest in old ones, etc). However, those weak ties can still be valuable and enjoyable during their lifetimes.


Yes. I’ve found a lot of friends through previous work relationships.

Honestly, the idea of being at a company and not walking away with at least a few long-term friends is very foreign to me.

A purely transactional workplace would be a miserable place to work. It’s much better to work somewhere where people can respect and appreciate each other beyond what’s necessary to close out their next Jira ticket.


I guess that's the problem, the only places I've worked have been focused on billing time or closing tickets with everyone heads down on that.

Think of it from the opposite direction - a requirement for forming and maintaing friendships is that you get to spend time with someone and interact with them on a regular basis. That makes work one of the most likely places to form friendships for adults.

I guess the assumed expiration date makes it harder for me to accept that I should make the effort to become friends.

That's why you become friends: so that you stay in touch after the "expiration date."

This is why company drinks and company outings are always so weird.

'Oh look, people I work with every day and do my best to be professional in front of now want me to drink in front of them on my day off. This is going to be fun."

Just because you're not friends doesn't mean the relationships are 'superficial'.

I really enjoy the company of my work colleagues.

Especially in a business setting, where it's not all 'heads down work', I think it's kind of important actually.

Professionalism is resonant, being around other people lifts you up, you learn from them, are energized, hopefully in mostly positive ways.

For Engineering work ... I'm worried that young folks won't have the opportunity for good mentors.


Well, perhaps I'm in the minority group but the best mentors I have had are:

- W. Richard Stevens

- Andrew S. Tanenbaum

- Brian Kernighan and Dennis Ritchie

- ...

Yes, I'm talking about books :)


Mentors can give you feedback that books can't, though. No matter how good a person is at self-reflection, you simply can't perceive yourself outside of your own perspective.

Not trying to knock reading of course, but it's no replacement for a good mentor.


Fair enough. I just don't think one can find good mentors willing to help in normal jobs/companies. Perhaps in FAANGs yeah, but 99% of us, devs, do not work for FAANGs.

As one of those devs in the 99%, I get that. But if you're okay with getting outside your comfort zone a bit, you can still find people to (at least informally) mentor you throughout your career.

For example, I volunteer as a mentor for Code Louisville, and we actively encourage students to stay in touch even after the program when it comes to job hunting, programming questions, etc. I've also managed to find experienced devs for myself through local dev meetups, but have also had luck just messaging people on Linkedin. Sure, not all devs are going to be willing, but a lot of people respond well to basic curiosity and humility.


> I don't talk with 99.9% of the people I've ever worked with and don't much miss them.

Maybe you don't miss them because you never talked to them.


> Haven't our work relationships always been superficial?

Not always, and not for everyone.

> I'm not with these people because I want to be friends with them, I'm with them because I want to earn a living. If I find a friend along the way that's great, but I don't talk with 99.9% of the people I've ever worked with and don't much miss them.

That attitude will directly lead to superficial relationships.

Many people would like some non-superficial social connection to at least some of the people who they spend a large fraction of their days with, and seeking and maintaining some relationships like that is probably healthier, too.


I don't necessarily want a non-professional relationship with everyone I encounter.

> I don't necessarily want a non-professional relationship with everyone I encounter.

I don't know where your comment came from, because in no way did I suggest that anyone should try to be friends with everyone they meet.


I'm quite an introvert.

What I've found is that I tend to try to friends with my co-workers because I'm around them constantly. And I don't try to make friends anywhere else.

Lately, I've been realizing that even though my coworkers like me, and I like them, they are not really my friends. Nobody who leaves the company stays in touch with me. I almost never have contact with them away from work.

I share my hobby stuff with them during work hours, and they seem to enjoy hearing about it and engage with me, but none of them would actually want to join me in those hobbies away from work.

This has me thinking that I should spend less time trying to engage with them, and more time trying to find local groups that share those hobbies.

So, contrary to the article, I don't think "the loneliness of the modern office team member" is actually a problem. I think it's a big hint that they need to seek relationships outside of work instead.


Aristotle explored this long ago, mapping out levels of friendship:

1) Friendship of Utility: Affection is based on usefulness, and if usefulness fades so does the relationship.

2) Friendship of Pleasure: Affection is based on pleasant enjoyment of the other, often in shared circumstance such as sport or hobby. When the enjoyment changes or circumstance ends, so does the relationship.

3) Friendships of Goodness: "Now those who wish well to their friends for their sake are most truly friends; for they do this by reason of own nature and not incidentally; therefore their friendship lasts as long as they are good- and goodness is an enduring thing."

#1 and #2 are common, #3 is rare.


Most work colleagues fall into number one. Some software projects are so demanding that you really get to see the true character of a person and how they react when they are tested. Sometimes number three happens.

It's an interesting cultural problem. Whether it changes more with time or from country to country is not clear to me and would be interesting to do research around.

For example, I grew up in the USSR and I saw how my parents' colleagues were practically all very close friends. Both my parents worked in academia. Someone's birthday was usually a big noisy gathering of the whole department of the research institute where they worked, plus some more friends from previous organizations and of course some classmates. Yes, at times it was that insane!

Looking back now I realize what has been lost. Why though - I have no idea.


As sibling comments are pointing out - the jobs are not for life anymore (and the tenure is getting shorter).

But there are 3 other aspects, specific to your location/economic system, which do not apply (and mostly never applied) in the US/West:

- people did not move around the country for jobs like they do in the US

- salaries in Eastern Europe/USSR were public and the same for the same position/responsibility.

- bosses' salaries were perhaps 30% higher (certainly not 300+% higher, so everyone was in the same socio-economic class, facilitating camaraderie


Very true. So basically things that are good for the economy - labour mobility, flexibility in salaries, etc - are not good for friendship building. It's either or.

Anecdotally my mom who worked in a soviet hospital still keeps in touch with her coworkers - multiple decades after emigrating. Meanwhile I (usually) stop making an effort to keep in touch the second someone leaves the company.

I think there's two parts to this - the Russian attitude of maintaining a few, deep close friends and everyone by and large staying in the same city their entire lives.


I don't think it's specifically Russian (as I am not Russian, for example) but rather it was a Soviet thing. Your sibling comment explains it pretty well.

It's the purposeful destruction of job security which is used as a threat to make employees work harder. Why make friends with your co-workers if you or them could be fired at any point when the shareholders decide to "cut the fat" for higher profits?

https://www.bls.gov/news.release/tenure.nr0.htm

>The median number of years that wage and salary workers had been with their current employer was 4.1 years in January 2020

It's difficult to make friends in this environment and this is a relatively recent change: https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/1984/10/art2full.pdf


It's even shorter in the software industry. I think it was 2-2.5 years or close. Ordinary engineers switch jobs often as the only way to bump up their salaries.

Cell phones and social media. To learn about people you just look it up. You don't interact with them anymore. You text or snoop. It sucks but not like the past was all that better either.

Man, I totally could have written this. The big problem is that whole "finding local groups" thing. That just... doesn't happen. Maybe if I lived in a city, but not in the 'burbs. Not when you have a full time job and kids.

I've also struggled making new (local) friends with kids, especially working from home for a non-local company. This is one of the main reasons I go work at coffee shops--the slim chance I run into someone in the same situation as me. It seems my wife can easily find a ton of mom's groups or women's clubs, for men, not so much.

My wife and the other moms in her mom group keep saying that they want the husbands to get together and do something. They just don't understand. We have nothing in common, and the shared experience of having kids is not even close to enough.

I hear this too. But I think that making friends is about diversifing your interests and theirs as well. Humans in frequent contact with each other tends to move towards alignment.

yeah but you have to have something. A liberal computer nerd and a firefighter steeped in macho culture are just not gonna work.

Do they both like tri-tip and beer? Boom. Bbq time.

Tri-tip and beer? If you have any friend-slots open I'd like to apply. :)

For me it's been the opposite. Being stuck in a suburb with small children, I've connected properly with more people than ever before in adult life. I wasn't actively searching or joining any groups, I just headed out with the stroller a couple of times per day during six (first child) plus ten (second child) months.

I think most people find it simultaneously wonderful and extremely boring to be at home with kids for extended periods, so quite a few seize any chance of having a conversation with another adult. The playgrounds are full of bored parents, and everyone has one or more tiny, human conversation starters.

Kindergarten is pretty good as well for meeting people. When a three year old is invited to birthday party, they kind of have to have a parent along for the event.

Somewhat specific to my locality (Sweden), there is 15 hours per week of free kindergarten for kids with stay-at-home parents. In my city there are specific drop-off and pickup times for those children, which means that six times per week you meet relaxed and slightly bored other parents, who have kids in the same group as you. This essentially always means that you hang around the yard for a bit and socialize.


Socialize yes. But so far it's only been because of the kids and because it's awkward to just stand around and not talk to each other. Never found anyone I'd really wanna hang out with. YMMV obviously.

A bit late to reply... But, the magic of it for me has been that several of these repeated superficial contacts have turned into friendships.

Three new friends in two years, six if one counts spouses. That is the same amount that I made in the preceeding ten years!


It's hard to jump straight to friend-level, without first socializing and making acquaintances.

I've done this, but at the dog park. Not sure it works as well though—I hardly know anyone's name, just their dog's name.

Meetup gets thrown around as cliche advice for this sort of things, but in the last city I lived, majority of meetups were either very demographic specific (i.e. something like 60+, or women’s business) or fronts for MLM and other scams.

yeah I have never found anything on Meetup that interested me. I once went to one for "Computers and programming". Noped out of there real fast. I was the only professional and I'm not interested in helping rookies learn javascript.

this has been my biggest problem with Meetup style events too. I'm often looking for others with a level of experience or interest in a topic to match my own, only to find people trying to break into the industry and just barely scratching the surface. At that point it's not a social thing for me, it's a mentoring/work thing, and I get this feeling of disappointment in the situation, which persuades me to skip the next.

It’s easy to start a meetup. I did once and other people who were searching for something similar popped right up and formed some great friendships. It’s ok to be a light host.

Out of curiosity, what kind of meetup did you start? How did you find event space for it?

I started a meet up for local digital or tech entrepreneurs to find, learn and take their next steps together. It was a mix of techies, marketing folks, business folks. Didn’t matter as long as you were ready to learn and do your next step.

It was less of an event and more of a community of acquaintances who were good at welcoming strangers. Many of us became good friends.

Space was public venues, and once folks got to knowledge other, other suggestions of who had access to space came up pretty easily.

Today, I’d probably pick something semi different like airmeet and use it for a virtual meetup to gauge interest.

Sometimes restaurants or libraries have dedicated rooms that can be booked.


Yeah, you have to look for private clubs for the things you're into. Masters swimming. Archery clubs. Book clubs. Whatever.

They're usually not on meetup, and often only on their own websites and/or on Facebook.

I found this helpful: https://outline.com/aAmy53


follow up:

And you know what the crazy thing is? I just don't care about stuff like sports, but I'd happily go to a game if I liked the people I was with, for the the chance to hang out. But omg I just don't care about so many of the things that seem to bring people together.

That's the curse of the mild introvert, I guess.


Kids make it tough, for sure. I can't plan time for get togethers because I have to take kids to activities every evening. They're well socialized and I'm a hermit. But I'm starting to push back against the parenting industrial complex. My kids will survive if I have friends or if I'm not there at all their games. I have social needs too.

Never prioritizing your own needs is a good way to end up bitter and divorced. Also competitive sports before high school should be considered child abuse. After all kids aren't the ones signing themselves up for these intensive programs.

Working in Toronto I found the same. Worse still (and in typical Canadian fashion), people would act as if they wanted to be more than work friends, but outside-work events would never work out for some reason. Moving to the Netherlands fixed the problem for me, so I think there are strong cultural forced at play. I've found building friendships (and knowing who is actually not interested in friendship) much easier, in and out of work. Also, in one year my professional network is far better than what I had in Canada after six years.

It's the blessing and curse of Dutch people, as a collective, that they really don't mind telling you what they think.

Argh this is my problem at my current company except I’m not even particularly introverted. I made lifelong friends at my previous small company but after four years at my current “top tier” company I got nothing, maybe one strong lead... in another state. We’re likable people and make friends quickly but nobody has time for a deeper connection, nobody wants to spend evenings or weekends doing bonding’y stuff (and I’m not into sports).

Like others here I tried finding local friends through groups, other dads, school events, etc but get nowhere. I’m honestly considering either switching back to a small cultish company or moving to a smaller town both of which have their own problems but... guess I could try softball

It doesn’t exactly make me happy others have this same problem but I’m glad I’m not alone.


I've worked at 4 companies in my career. I've made good personal friends at the first and current. I have close to zero contact with anyone from the second and third.

If I had to attribute what the difference was:

First company: Almost everyone was within a 10 year age difference of each other, and even those few that were older were still "young at heart", for lack of a better term. Everyone enjoyed each other's company and would frequently meet up after work, even go party together at bars and clubs on peoples' birthdays, etc.

Current company: My ex-boss had a unique knack for bringing the team together. I don't know what specifically he did that contributed most, but the entire team ended up becoming friends. Since he left, things haven't been the same with newcomers into the team, while most of the oldtimers have left.


Same. I have friends from some gigs that have stayed friends for many years. Other jobs, I never talked with anyone again. Age and stage of life is factor. If your coworkers all have young children, birthday clubbing isn’t really on their agenda.

Without out-of-work activities & bounding, friendly coworkers don’t transition into friends. I’d suspect remote work makes it very difficult to form a permanent friendship with a colleague.


Definitely agree age and stage of life is a factor. Which makes me more surprised how I've become so friendly with people at my current company. Our age ranges from early 20s to late 50s, singles, married with kids, etc. Most of us don't even live too close by. The only distinguishing factor I can think of, is as I mentioned, my ex-boss, who really had a knack for bringing people together.

> Lately, I've been realizing that even though my coworkers like me, and I like them, they are not really my friends. Nobody who leaves the company stays in touch with me.

I thought this was the norm, not the exception. I'm not in touch with of my past colleagues anymore. Reasons: a) we never hanged out outside the office (besides, beers on Fridays from time to time), b) changing jobs usually means changing cities, and using Twitter/WhatsApp/Facebook/Email is something that I find useless if you want to keep in touch with people; for me it is in-person hang outs or no touch at all.


this was my entire experience in San Francisco with almost everyone I met. i’m not that introverted, people seemed to like me and hang out with me at work. Once they or I left, I essentially never heard from any of them again.

I noticed this in other people too. Their entire social circles revolved around work. People had weddings that essentially only co workers went to.

Those years were the loneliest of my life.


This is also a silicon valley problem. Lots of people move there to get the big job and make money. It attracts a certain kind of people. People who prioritize their career and income above other things. You also have the challenge that a lot of the people moving to SF might only stay a few years, so you have lot of turnaround. People are not focused on building long-term friendships and relationships because know that they or others might leave. You also see this on the dating scene. I found silicon valley to be an unhealthy living environment on multiple levels.

> Those years were the loneliest of my life.

What did you change to turn this around?


Thanks for asking. I started therapy, and left. I moved to Tahoe in 2019, where I had actually made a few friends due to skiing ~40 days a year or so while in SF. I ran into some friendly people at an Alpine Meadows pass holder party awhile ago, struck up a conversation over a Blackhawks jersey and life in Chicago. Something that might happen in SF all the time, but would rarely if ever lead to a relationship.

The hardest thing for me, still, is I'm working at a company that has a similar vibe to an SF tech company with a lot of people moving here or our other office for the job. That sets up the transactional/ephemeral relationships from work. It's very hard for me to distance myself from getting self worth out of my work and relationships at work, but I must do that. The "I must do that," is an insight from therapy.


my experience is.. our lives are complicated and we should trust ourselves more and not try to optimize

a lot of us are lonely and it makes everything sensitive, maybe your colleagues don't stay in touch because they think you didn't stay in touch

it's subtle and fragile and I think we should find more strength within ourselves


I have the same issue. I want to expand my friendships beyond my employer, but I'm not certain how. I feel like I've got just enough time outside of work to spend time with my family, and very little left over to go to meetups or wherever else it is that people find new adult friends.

If A can fire B or unilaterally terminate the relationship, for any reason at any time, and B needs A's money/resources, then the relationship between A and B will always be superficial, and B will do non-genuine things so A doesn't fire B.

I made that mistake early in my career thinking managers were my friends.

I have kept in touch with former managers and tried to meet them for lunch at least once or twice a year pre Covid.


Maybe not. I've always been frank with my 'managers'. I tell them "We both work for the company. I get support from you for information and resources. Other than that, try to stay out of my way?"

As a more senior guy it works for me. Not for everybody, I get that. But its a way healthier relationship.

Can they fire me? Sure. But I can get work again the next day. So go ahead, threaten and bluster manager guy. I've more than once picked up my coat and said "Are we done here?"


Yep, you've solved the problem by turning "unilateral" into "bilateral" which is preferable. We can say the method in which you solved it by decreasing the social "distance" or "context" between you and who you report to--if you are spectacular at your job and working in a field where the labor balance is in your favor, it's easy. Other possible and less optimal strategies include having a preexisting personal relationship/friendship, being related to your boss, acquiring information or other blackmail, and/or being perceived as able to successfully win a lawsuit.

FEI, this is a Financial Times summary of an Insead Knowledge adaptation of an MIT Sloan Management article. Go here if you want to read the source: https://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/are-your-team-members-lo...

In my experience the office is a lonely place because it is completely fake. Everyone has to pretend to care, pretend they're making awesome progress and pretend they don't hate management. I'm a contractor precisely because it allows me to move around and avoid becoming entrenched in the fakery.

I definitely felt this earlier in my career. The solution for me was to stop looking to work to fill a need for purpose, and to start some creative hobbies as an outlet. This naturally got me meeting other people with similar interests.

Work is work. Life is life. Personally I need boundaries and feel my life is healthier for it.


I've got contacts with people I worked with 30 years ago. We have a bi-weekly Zoom chat for instance. Lasts for hours. Lots of fun.

Friends? Sure, I've offered to come take care of them when they're having surgery, or invited to stay when the spouse is making them sleep on the couch. Even sent money a time or two when they're between jobs.

Maybe its different nowadays. But coworkers used to be easy to make friends with.


The biggest reason for shallow work relationships is high turnover.

Remote work fits to a small close-knitted team less than 5 people. More than that, there is so much that it's hard to fill.

Depends who you ask. I have no problem with it, and I suspect plenty of others feel the same way.

Im perfectly fine being lonely at work. Go away

EDIT: Should've looked at all the comments first - https://archive.is/Y7IFZ

Someone has a non-paywalled link? Sounds like a very interesting topic.


Non-paywall link?



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