Editor's Note

Friends and Benefits

Finding your tribe in the workplace

By James Ross Gardner March 16, 2015 Published in the March 2015 issue of Seattle Met

Scope the confessions in this month’s cover story and you might imagine the city’s workplaces are staffed by clans of libidinous bonobos. More than half the revelations our interns gathered as they fanned out across Seattle in search of folks willing to anonymously surrender their employers’ secrets involve office trysts, extramarital tête-à-têtes, or NC-17 behavior in general. 

But a far more illuminating secret, to me at least, was the intel dropped on us, in the course of our research, about one extremely high-profile company: Whenever four or more employees congregate outside the office—at a bar, a bowling alley, whatever—those employees are reportedly eligible to expense $25 each toward the activity. Joined a mob of workmates at Cinerama for the latest sci-fi blockbuster? The tab’s on the company. Grabbing beers to grumble about that douche in engineering? Hang on to your receipt. 

That’s an awfully aggressive job perk, one that, at least to my mind, cynically assumes colleagues won’t bond organically, won’t flock after work to grouse about the engineering douche anyway. It’s not exactly paying employees to be friends, but it comes pretty close.

I’ve worked in hotels, grocery stores, call centers, warehouses, and kitchens, many of them awful and soul crushing, and no matter how crappy the work conditions—in fact, often because of the work conditions—I’ve always found what amounted to my tribe, a collection of disparate cogs bound by shared -objectives and shared kvetching. That’s true where I work now. It’s true where you work. Given enough time, that bonding, that commiserating, it just…happens.

You can’t read Allecia Vermillion’s excellent account of a chef turned bank robber and not be reminded just how deep work friendships can become. Spafford’s saga is about a lot of things, but surely at its core is the notion that the people you labor next to are often the people who become your second family.

Look, Seattle’s an exciting place to work. As we’ve detailed in the cover story, so much of that excitement surrounds the perks organizations employ to lure the smartest, most driven job candidates. But unnamed globally recognized company, you can keep your $25. 

Spend it on something else. Use it for—I don’t know, I just read nearly 40 workplace confessions, each more salacious and incriminating than the last. Hush money seems like a much sounder investment.

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