cover art of building and managing effective relationships in person and remotely at work with Emily Lamia

As a Career Coach and Talent Development Consultant, Emily Lamia has helped individuals navigate their next career move and thrive in work that’s meaningful to them for over a decade. Emily spent the first part of her career working in electoral politics, serving on electoral and advocacy campaigns, and at the Democratic National Committee. She found her love of coaching and talent development as the Executive Director of a career development association for progressive political operatives. She has also worked at the Girl Scouts of the USA where she supported the recruitment, onboarding, and training of their National Board of Directors. In 2020, she was selected as one of Business Insider’s most innovative career coaches. She received her Masters in Public Administration from New York University and her BA from Mount Holyoke College.

How to Change Your Job or Career

The Most Important Lesson for Managers on Building and Maintaining Relationships

We recorded this episode in Oct. 2021.

I think one of the most important things that people kind of take for granted is that not everybody functions the way that you do. Your preferences are yours, and we can probably agree on what polite actions and activities and methods are…

Your Challenge Invitation

If you want to make your work and your relationships more meaningful, think about the folks that you haven’t maybe connected with and had as much interaction with over the last year or 18 months over the pandemic. What would success look like in terms of reconnecting with them? If you miss their relationship or friendship, let them know that, which can further strengthen your relationship.

If you are thinking about trying to make a change in your career, get genuinely curious about the things that you don’t know and the things that interest you, and talk to folks who are doing those things. Ask them what’s keeping them up at night. There’s never been a better time than ever to connect with people who are not even in your city and town using video conferencing tools. In some ways the world is wide open for you to make connections with people that are in totally different places than you are right now. Use that as an opportunity to start forming some relationships and learn about what other folks are doing, if you’re genuinely curious about their work.

Contact and follow Lamia by going to

You can connect with Damianne on the Changes BIG and small website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube. You’re also invited to join the Changes BIG and small Facebook community.

What does it look like to gather in different ways to make sure that relationships do continue to get formed and strengthened, and allow for people to feel connection in a different way?

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Timeline of the Chat

[01:46] The Different Forms of Relationships at Work
[05:59] Do You Need a Best Friend at Work
[08:29] Meetups and Time Together in a World of Remote Work
[09:26] Building relationships in hybrid/remote work
[10:38] Building trust and psychological safety in teams
[14:06] Helpful Elements in Building Relationships in a Remote Environment
[19:58] The Secret to the Most Successful Teams
[20:35] Closeness and struggling with the depth of relationships at work
[23:25] Challenging relationships with managers
[25:45] How to transition from one job to another
[30:39] How relationships change as a career advances
[36:56] Invitation/Challenge

Not everybody functions the way that you do.

Quick Links

Come [to conversations] with genuine curiosity.

Transcript of the Episode

[01:46] The Different Forms of Relationships at Work

[01:46] Damianne President: I’m really looking forward to chatting with you about relationships and then focus in on work relationships.

 What different forms do relationships take at work?

[01:57] Emily Lamia: I was thinking about this earlier and I think there are so many different forms that relationships take. Especially now, we’ve got this like bizarre, hybrid work environment, which means that our relationships have to change even more so in some ways. 

I think some of the forms that they take are peer to peer, employee to manager, employee to boss, or even employee to the C suite or the leadership of an organization or a company. 

 I think most people would sort of say that, oh, I treat all relationships the same and I treat everybody the same and I aim to be very polite and empathetic and equal in how I treat folks. One of the things I was thinking about before our conversation was that I don’t actually think that this happens very much. I think there is a bit of change that happens when folks at work are talking to folks that are on their level versus people who they manage versus their boss, and then versus the leadership.

I was thinking back to when I worked at the Girl Scouts, which was an organization with their headquarters in New York, which was probably about 250 people or so, and people would get in the elevator. We’d have like seven floors or so with different staff on each floor. I think you can even just see and sense relationships when folks get in the elevator. Is it a bunch of peers in the elevator and what is the conversation that happens versus, when you get in the elevator and, you know, the senior leadership team is also in the elevator, do you speak up or are you silent? Are you smiling in a certain way versus who you’d smile at or with, with peers in the elevator. I always noticed a totally different energy when, you know, the CEO would get in the elevator and just how that would shift and the feelings that would change based on those relationships that exist or those hierarchies at work.

So, I think relationships can look like a lot of different things in the workplace. And I think we don’t necessarily actually clue in as much to how our approach to those relationships and the way that we show up actually does change based on the hierarchy and who’s in the elevator with us, if you will.

[03:57] Damianne President: Yeah, that’s so interesting. The company that I work for is entirely remote and it was interesting because in my team there are eight of us and I hadn’t met five of the other people on the team face-to-face ever. We just got to meet face-to-face in Serbia last week, and the feedback that I’ve gotten from the people I work with is that it’s made a significant change to many of them just in terms of meeting somebody in person helps you understand and filter online interactions in a completely different way. And so it’s very interesting when you speak about how we’ve gone hybrid, and then there’s also the remote work element, how all of that really does complicate relationships to some extent.

[04:43] Emily Lamia: Totally. I mean, you’re not by accident ending up in an elevator with, you know, certain folks that you don’t find yourself in a meeting with as easily these days. And there are so many things that were missing virtually, body language. I mean, we never get to see the bottom half of us, it’s kind of crazy, and how we sit and how we engage is so different. And I even noticed just, I was reading an article a couple of days ago about part of what adds to the Zoom fatigue. One of the things was more scientifically eloquent than I’ll be able to describe, but basically when you’re staring at somebody so close in the face all the time, instinctively our brain activates this sort of sense of like a stressful situation, or intimacy and intensity that we don’t usually have in the workplace when we’re in person. And so just having that all the time as well, I think just changes some of the dynamics of the relationships, how we relate to people and how engaged or exhausted we are at the end of the day after that format that we’re kind of forced to be in right now.

[05:43] Damianne President: Interestingly, when you were mentioning the different types of relationships, I did not hear you say friendships. I’ve been hearing some things about it being actually important, having a friend at work. So I’m curious your experience and your thoughts about this. What is the role of friendships at work? Is there a place for that?

[05:59] Do You Need a Best Friend at Work

[05:59] Emily Lamia: That’s such a good point. And that’s so funny. What a great realization that I didn’t even think about friendship. I actually think this is another thing that’s really become challenging for folks over the pandemic. Friendships are absolutely part of work. I would say they’re a critical part. 

In fact, Gallup, the polling company, does a lot of work on employee engagement and they have these 12 sort of elements that make up basically whether an employee in a workplace is highly engaged or not, and obviously engagement leads to higher profits, lower turnover, higher retention and all kinds of good stuff. One of the things on that list is I have a best friend at work and they’ve gotten a lot of pushback about whether or not you have to have a best friend at work, can’t you just have a friend? And they actually say there’s a reason that the category is a best friend at work, because apparently having somebody you consider a best friend is an indicator that you really are engaged at work.

 I was actually talking to my husband about this the other day and, you know, in our twenties and early thirties, a lot of the friendships that we formed that we still have now were formed because of work, meeting folks in the hallway or our team. I think that sort of diminishes the older you get and the higher up in the organization or the company that you work in, but friendships are, are so important and key.

 In some ways I think, again, one of the hardest things that we’re dealing with with our hybrid work environment is most folks are just not exposed to as many people to be able to have those natural friendships form when we’re all remote. It was easier to create those organically when we were in person. I actually think, you know, a lot of the folks that I work with who are really feeling frustrated by their jobs and just exhausted and tired, I think part of it for a lot of the folks that have really high relationship building talents is that they don’t feel very connected to their peers, and they’re missing some of that social interaction. 

Actually, I have one client who she says the only reason she gets through the day is because she has this one other friend who they talk every day; they’re really close. Yes, they spent a lot of time bitching and moaning and talking about how frustrated they are, but even friendships in that kind of sense, I mean I’ve had those friendships in many different jobs and they are what keep you going through the day. So, yes, I think that’s great that you pointed that out and kind of embarrassing and sad that I didn’t even necessarily think of friendship as a way to describe how relationships form at work and it’s a big one.

[08:21] Damianne President: That’s okay. You’ve redeemed yourself with the Gallup poll and everything. 

[08:26] Emily Lamia: Yeah, no, it’s a really, it’s a really good point.

[08:29] Meetups and Time Together in a World of Remote Wor

[08:29] Damianne President: I was just listening to a podcast today. It’s with … the last name of Swisher. Anyway, it’s one of those tech, Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway. And he was talking about how, when everybody was remote or when people worked remotely in his team, one of the things they will do is they will take a Boca trip every year and how important that was for team spirit and morale. Sometimes it felt like people would actually not quit the job and hold on because they’re like waiting for the Boca trip to help them get through whatever rough patch or to reconnect with people. So I think that’s very interesting.

[09:06] Emily Lamia: Definitely, there’s a company I’m thinking of that is pretty large in the progressive political world I came from in the first part of my career. And they have a retreat in Mexico every year and people were always looking forward to that, or it might’ve even changed location, but it was always someplace that was like warm and vacationy, and folks would be just excited to be able to have that opportunity.

[09:26] Building relationships in hybrid/remote work

[09:26] Emily Lamia: This is actually, I think, the big questions around, okay, if companies aren’t spending the same amount of money and resources on office space, what does it look like to gather in different ways to make sure that relationships do continue to get formed and strengthened, and just allow for people to feel connection in a different way?

And so instead of spending the money on office space, are they spending it on a yearly retreat or every six months even. And what does that look like? I’ve even heard somebody who said that they could imagine that there are going to be retreat centers opening, specifically designed for work, where the retreat centers will have facilitators that do team-building and strengths training, and all kinds of different stuff. Companies would just sign up and go to this retreat and the facilitators would all be there and they’d have a whole agenda and they wouldn’t even have to do that much planning themselves. And I was like, actually, that’s kind of brilliant. 

So it will be very interesting to see what types of gathering entities and infrastructure and ideas come together when, if we eventually keep realizing like this hybrid stuff is here to stay, but people are still craving connection and the reason people are leaving and looking for other jobs is they’re not feeling that connection a lot of the time. 

[10:38] Building trust and psychological safety in teams

[10:38] Damianne President: Yeah, it’s interesting because on the team meetup last week, we had two people who couldn’t be there in person. One of the activities we did was a team building activity, and it was just a fun activity that we hired a company to facilitate for us. And it was not cheap. And I was like, wow, maybe my next career but anyway, the feedback was that it was great and I didn’t have time to plan it with everything else that was going on. I didn’t want to put the responsibility on one of my team members. And so just being able to have those companies or those resources to be able to go to for building some connections or having fun together, because I think that helps with psychological safety, when you can have fun with somebody, when you could be a little bit vulnerable and silly with them, then if they can be silly back, that says something about the kind of relationship that you have within your team.

[11:37] Emily Lamia: A hundred percent. One of the words that I’m hearing really frequently from my clients is trust, which is obviously so connected to psychological safety that you talk about, and it’s hard to build trust virtually. You lack some of those other, you know, body and language cues that kind of get formed and those small little interactions that over time build up. Trust is not built with like one grand sweeping gesture. It’s usually little things over time and, oftentimes, I think those are easily facilitated in person and a little bit harder online.

So yeah, I mean, I think the types of gatherings that create more trust and psychological safety are going to be so important. And I think organizations and companies that realize that this is actually worth an investment and it will pay dividends are going to be the ones that are the most successful in the long run. 

[12:28] Damianne President: One of the things I’m noticing in terms of keeping with this topic of psychological safety and trust is that in a remote workplace, it takes a lot of conversation. Building trust and building psychological safety requires a lot of intention and actually getting into those more difficult conversations. For some reason it’s different than when you’re in the office with somebody all the time. I’m not really sure exactly why that is or what that is, but I’ve noticed that it’s helpful to have conversations around difficult or challenging topics with people in one-on-one or even in team meetings.

[13:08] Emily Lamia: Yeah, I think that’s true. I mean, and it’s funny because I mean, even in this conversation, like you’re in your house, I’m in my house. We’re both coming from our own spaces and there’s no even physical holding of this conversation aside from on a screen. If we were having to have a really difficult conversation, in some ways the you versus me and your side versus my side is almost just that much stronger when we’re virtual. And if we’re in person, at least we’re in the same space, we’re sitting in the same kind of chairs. There’s an equalizer effect there. We’re both on somebody else’s terms and in their physical space as opposed to always coming from our own. And so I think we miss that and I think some of these hard conversations that need to be had, there are other softer kind of elements that can come in to bring people to an equalizer state. And it’s harder to get that when you’re virtual sitting in your own house all day. 

[14:06] Helpful Elements in relationships in a Remote Environment

[14:06] Damianne President: Let’s dig into that. What might some of those softer elements be that could help in a remote environment? 

[14:14] Emily Lamia: Well, I think part of this is genuinely getting to know people and figuring out what works for them. I think one of the most important things that people kind of take for granted is that not everybody functions the way that you do. Your preferences are yours, and we can probably agree on what polite actions and activities and methods are, but the way somebody wants to be communicated with, the way they want to receive recognition, the way they want to be notified or told when there’s something stressful happening or bad news, everybody’s got a different method for how that’s going to land best with them. And so I think there’s an element that first has to happen of really getting to know the person and their sort of style and their strengths lenses in some ways to be able to set the tone for having a challenging conversation in the most effective way.

 One person you might sort of need to give them a heads up, give them time to think about the conversation, allow for pauses. Other people just want to get into it immediately and they want to be able to share and be very vocal and open. If you’ve got a team and a group of people, you’re managing lots of different dynamics of how each person needs to engage in that conversation.

I think overall in general, there’s a couple pieces that come to mind for me. One is people being genuinely straightforward and not sugar coating a lot of the things that they’re saying, whether it’s giving negative feedback from a manager to an employee, or if it’s having a difficult conversation about a microaggression at work that they saw. You kind of just need to come out and say, here’s how I’m feeling and here’s what I experienced, and then there is the need to then say how did this land on you? Or how have you experienced this? Or what are your thoughts on this, to actually get into a dialogue. I think that’s, in some ways, even more important to ask when you’re virtual, because you can’t actually talk over each other on Zoom or in Microsoft teams, right. One of you gets muted and you can’t both talk at each other. So there has to really be a give and take on a virtual conversation, with a challenging topic in some ways even more so.

So those would be a couple of the things that I would say are kind of important to set the scene: really make sure you know the person, think about how this conversation is going to kick off and be most effective. How are you going to make sure that you’re meeting them in a way that will hopefully get the best of them and not raise defensiveness or resentment or frustration and anger. Some of that is obviously unavoidable, potentially, but just doing some early thinking about that, I think, is always a good idea, and then making sure that you come with genuine curiosity and get ready to throw it back to them and ask for their thoughts, their perspective. I think those are two really easy things that I mean, we should be doing that in person too, but I think they become even more important virtually because we don’t have those kinds of other softer elements of body language of our full body that often can suggest and are important pieces of it.

[17:19] Damianne President: One of the activities that a colleague recommended was to do a culture mapping activity, and it’s based on a book by Erin Mayer. As you were speaking, one thing that occurred to me is often when people are working in the same place, there might be more similarities between them.

That’s not universally true, but I think that’s generally more true than when people work remotely and can be a lot more spread out. So for example, the people in my team live in eight different countries, eight different cultures. And so that is very different than if people are from the same place. The culture mapping exercise was very interesting to kind of see where we land on different metrics. So looking at whether people are more straightforward versus not, do people like more direct or indirect communication and all of those types of things. 

 What I was sharing with the team is that we have to give each other grace, we have to allow opportunities, like we have to advocate for ourselves and we also have to try to consider other people. So I will be thoughtful of you in the conversation, but it’s also your responsibility, your right, to advocate for yourself if something is not landing helpfully, or if there’s a barrier to our communication. So I think those are more elements that may come in when we have people on teams that are from very different cultures.

[18:49] Emily Lamia: A hundred percent. Yup. And it’s more diversity in terms of everything from like time zones you operate in to different cultures, different ways of approaching so many different things. Those all make work better; having more perspectives, theoretically adds to a better outcome and also makes things more challenging sometimes to just do the work and get through the work. So, yeah, definitely. I agree with everything you’re saying on that. 

[19:15] Damianne President: I guess it’s really thinking about process versus outcome. So the outcome may be better, but then the process may be more challenging and just being able to sit with it and be present and show up for all of it is sometimes challenging.

[19:30] Emily Lamia: Which I think part of the biggest ingredient to make it successful is people’s self-awareness. What is it that uniquely works for you? What triggers you? How do you approach your work? What do you need to be your best self? Cause if you don’t know the natural ways that you think, feel, and behave, how you go about doing work and where you add value and where you struggle and your strengths and weaknesses, it’s been really hard for someone else to actually get to know and figure out how to work effectively with you as well.

[19:58] The Secret to the Most Successful Teams

[19:58] Emily Lamia: So I think, especially in our virtual world, like the folks in teams that have higher levels of self-awareness are going to be the most successful, I think Korn Ferry has actually even done research maybe a decade or two ago looking at the highest performing companies in the Fortune 500 list. I don’t know how they figured this out, but somehow, the companies that had higher levels of self-awareness had higher levels of profit and stock prices.

[20:26] Damianne President: Well, that’s a compelling reason for lots of people, even just the bottom line.

[20:35] Closeness and struggling with the depth of relationships at work

[20:35] Damianne President: So what are some of the challenges that we face at work, or do you have an example from your own experience that you would like to share?

[20:45] Emily Lamia: Any particular type of challenge that you have in mind? 

[20:48] Damianne President: Some of the ones we just discussed were assuming likeness, not being straightforward. This was what I took away from what you said, and not having enough curiosity. You had an example also about somebody from your work that you shared in the intake form about how there can be a misunderstanding that happens sometimes. 

[21:10] Emily Lamia: Yeah. That’s a great point. I’m thinking about how some of the biggest mistakes that I’ve seen, that I’ve made myself personally with work and relationships in general, that I see clients struggle with a lot as well, there are two things in particular that come to mind. 

The first one is making the mistake of assuming your level of trust and relationship and closeness to somebody is more than somebody else’s. There are times where I think because we’re seeking to have close connection to others and feel understood and feel like we have kinship with the folks that we work with, we can sometimes forget that when we share something with somebody, it may actually be that that person shares it with someone else. Do we actually want that to happen?

 I know in the past for myself, I’ve made the mistake of assuming that something I share with somebody about a situation is going to stay with that person and not eventually get to other folks. I think it kind of comes to thinking that you’re closer to somebody than they are to somebody else and just not making a mistake of misidentifying some of those more important relationships that exist and where you actually fit in there. I think that can, for sure, also happen in our world right now, because if we’re having a lot of one-on-one conversations, we don’t even think about how close that person we’re talking to is to other folks or their specific engagement with another team or a situation or a topic.

I think part of it always goes back to, as silly as this sounds, are you sharing something with somebody that you’re comfortable, you know, making sure if it shows up on the front page of the New York Times, you’re not going to be embarrassed, you’re not gonna have wished that you hadn’t said that or communicated that. I think that’s where trust is also built, making sure that the level of trust that you assume you have with somebody is actually real and right, and not forgetting that this person that you’re talking to also has other folks that they trust and what is the level of trust that you have versus what they have with someone else, and so not kind of misaligning that basically. That’s one of the things I think, for sure, that I wish I could do differently when I think about the past and some of those relationships, and I see with a lot of my other clients. 

[23:25] Challenging relationships with managers

[23:25] Emily Lamia: The other thing that I hear a lot from the folks that I support when they’re searching for new jobs and opportunities is really just challenging relationships with managers. I think most managers are not taught how to manage. Even if you do have like a six hour training course, which is more than a lot of people get, you learn by doing it. You learn by making mistakes, you learn by talking to peers and wrestling with, well, how did you deliver bad feedback or how are you putting someone on a performance improvement plan? Or how are you delegating effectively? How are you running a team meeting, all of those different things? Even if you have a cheat sheet of technically how to do it and what steps to take, your emotions get involved, the emotions with the other person get involved. It’s way more complicated.

And so, I think one of the biggest challenges is that I’m seeing for folks is just managing that manager relationship and for managers feeling like they actually feel confident and know what they’re doing with the folks that they’re managing. I think this really comes in when difficult feedback needs to be delivered, if there is a performance issue, a lot of managers really struggle with how to deliver that in a way that’s effective but doesn’t hurt the person’s feelings. And in some ways, sometimes you actually need to hurt the person’s feelings a little bit for them to really get the feedback. You probably know of Kim Scott’s Radical Candor book. 

[24:45] Damianne President: I’m actually reading it right now. 

[24:47] Emily Lamia: Oh, awesome. Yeah, it’s a great read. And talk about another great podcast out there. She has this term ruinous empathy, which is you’re so fixated on not hurting a person’s feelings in the moment, you don’t tell them something that they’d be better off knowing in the long run. I think so many managers fall into this trap. 

And then of course, when you’re the employee and you’re suddenly told you’re not getting a raise or you’re not getting that promotion, or you’re actually on a performance improvement plan or heck even, you know, worst comes to worse you’re fired, I’ve worked with way too many folks that say my manager has never given me this feedback before, or this came out of that surprise. And so I think that’s one of the biggest challenges, which is why I’m such a huge proponent of not just manager training, but also coaching and ongoing support for managers; that’s just so important.

[25:45] How to transition from one job to another

[25:45] Damianne President: We’ve seen a lot of people leaving the workforce, especially recently with COVID, but it’s something that happens always anyway. People find new jobs, people get tired of the current job, or they have a situation that they feel like the best option is for them to leave their current employment. One question that has often occurred to me in the past when I’m leaving a job is how do I avoid burning bridges?

I think, especially as you go to those last few months, there can be a temptation to say all the things you’ve ever been upset about and basically flip people off as you leave, which is not a good way to do it, I think. So what is a good way to transition out of one job and into another job?

[26:31] Emily Lamia: Oh, talk about things I wish I could do differently. Starting my career in democratic politics, I was out of a job often after every election cycle, just cause you know, campaign ends and then you’re out of this. There were so many different times where I wish I had ended things differently, mostly from a lack of maturity on my part of really thinking about, okay, I’m so frustrated about this one thing right now, but is this really going to matter in five months or even in five years from now? Probably not. 

I’ve been seeing a couple of folks share the idea of when you’re frustrated, think about if this is going to matter in five hours, five days, five weeks, five months, five years. Are you actually carrying the appropriate amount of frustration and anger for what this thing that you’re frustrated and angry about actually is? And I think that that partially just comes with maturity to a certain degree.

 You’re right. I think there is a huge desire for many folks right now when they’re leaving jobs to just throw gasoline on a company or a person and light the match and walk away. So aside from thinking, you know, hold on, is this actually gonna matter? I think it’s important to think about, as horrible as this sounds, what might you need this person for in the future? Do you want to be able to go back and have good memories and stories and relationships to call on at some point in the future? If somebody who you really respect asks the folks that you are leaving what was their impression of you, what do you want that person, that group of people to have said about what it was like to work with you? I think we all want people to say nice things about us and feel positively. Sometimes that means that we have to stomach our internal frustration and kind of push it down and take the higher road.

Sometimes I think it’s about also being able to, as horrible and hard as this sounds, put yourself in the shoes of the person that you feel so frustrated with and would like to burn the bridge with sometimes and try and actually find some empathy for them. Are you frustrated with your boss or your team or your organization because they’ve treated you really badly? And so that’s why you’re just like, screw it, I’m out of here. What happens if you get up on that balcony and think about why you’re being treated badly? 

It’s probably not actually about you. They’re probably doing it to multiple people and everybody’s frustrated or upset. Is the reason that your boss is so micromanaging because they’re actually a control freak and they’re so worried about how their boss is looking at them? Are they so connected to their results and their view of success because that’s the only thing that they have in their lives that matters? Is it that they’re so worried they’re going to look like they are failing if something doesn’t go right? 

 It’s really hard to do this in the moment, but if you can actually just kind of get up to that balcony and try and open that window for a little bit of empathy to say, if this has nothing to do with me, what’s actually going on for this person, many times I think you can actually feel sorry and bad for them. And that, at least for me, sometimes helps me take the higher road and feel like the bigger person when then it’s not about me and it’s not about my issues and frustrations. It’s actually about like, I feel bad for you and I see the crappy situation that you’re in, and while you’ve really done wrong by me, I can still step away and try and be the bigger person. 

Again, way easier said than done. As much as it may be frustrating to always give more or assume best intent and go the extra mile for someone else when they don’t do it for you, it usually does pay dividends in the long run, as long as you’re not letting people run over you.

I think there’s a big tendency right now for folks to want to burn bridges, and sometimes I think that is necessary. We look at some of these whistleblowers that are calling companies out. Somebody does need to do that. Maybe the people that are doing that, they’ve asked the question, okay, is this gonna matter in five years and they’re actually saying, yeah, if somebody doesn’t speak up, five years from now, these companies are gonna have harmed even more people and more of society. So I think it’s about also being able to step away and say is this really that important? How do I preserve my reputation in the long run and is this going to matter as much? And am I going to need these people again in a few months or a few years?

[30:39] How relationships change as a career advances

[30:39] Damianne President: As he was speaking about this topic, it also made me think this may look different where you are in your career. And so, somebody who’s starting out may need more favors than somebody who is the CEO of a company. One thing I’m interested in exploring is how do relationships change over time within a person’s career?

I was in education before, and some of my principals seemed really lonely, for example, and it really depended on the school. There were some schools where the principals and the teachers were friends and there were boundaries between the professional and the personal relationship. There were other situations in which people felt that a principal was not able to differentiate in that way. What have you found, or what have you noticed in terms of how relationships change within a person’s career, as they advance?

[31:33] Emily Lamia: Yeah, it’s such a good question. And I think we’re also at an interesting time, because again, the way that relationships either get started or continue right now in our virtual world is affecting sort of how relationships form and change over the course of our careers too. I think in the beginning, probably age 22 to late twenties or early thirties, most folks are in the same boat. They’re all starting at the bottom level. There is comradery. A lot of friendships are formed at work. For a lot of different professions it’s sort of like we’re all in this grunt work together at the bottom. And then things shift because some people stay at that level or move up a little bit. Some people move up a lot and have a much faster trajectory into leadership than others.

Then by the 30 to 40 year range, I think there’s more differentiation in terms of those relationships they have at work. Obviously that age group is usually when folks are having families themselves or they have other personal things that they’re focused on. And so they want work-life balance in more of a way I think then than the folks early on who that’s more of how their social circle gets formed. So I think in that 30 to 40 year range, you’re definitely forming relationships but you’re also navigating folks that may not have ended up as high up as you or who are higher up than you and your relationships are just changing, I think.

Then when you’re kind of over 40 that’s often where I think you don’t have necessarily as close friends at work or as many friends at work, maybe you have a couple of peers who are your close colleagues, but you know, you’re not maybe going out for happy hour drinks with like 30 folks after work. You’re in smaller groups and there’s more like, I don’t know, specific and thoughtful relationships that get formed there as opposed to just larger, expansive relationships in groups.

 I think the other thing that changes as well is sort of how you get jobs and how you talk about work. In the early stages, it’s about who’s getting a promotion? How are you moving up? What does your resume look like? Are you looking for another job? And then the older people sort of, I don’t know why exactly, but people are a little bit more quiet when they’re looking for another job or it feels a little risky or vulnerable to put yourself out there the older you get and say, I’m actually not happy. This isn’t what I was looking for. I’m trying to make a change. So a lot of the folks that I work with who are over 40, I think they have a little bit of, I don’t want to call it shame necessarily that if they’re unhappy and they’re trying to make a career change, but it’s almost like they feel a little bit just scared to throw it out there to folks and to tell too many people.

In part, I think the older you get the less you’re just throwing your resume out to folks and trying to make connections and such, because that feels uncomfortable. And so the way that you form relationships and think about making changes in your career kind of has to become a lot more tailored and targeted and calculated the older you get. So I think there are definitely these milestones. 

It’s going to be interesting to see, you know, the folks that are early in their careers now who are missing out on a lot of that in-person social relationship building that happens in the early part of your career, what does that mean for their growth and trajectory and opportunities they get that others would have been getting earlier on because they had more exposure to more folks internally.

[34:55] Damianne President: Definitely yeah. I also made some significant changes. I’ve had an atypical career in terms of I’ve moved every four years as a teacher. And I worked as a teacher for 14, 15 years, and then I decided to make a career change. At the time I decided this, I was about to enter my forties. It’s going to be hard. We don’t need to sugar coat it. It’s going to be hard. 

[35:17] Emily Lamia: I think this is also where relationships become such an important piece. And obviously not just for networking and meeting people that then introduce you to potential jobs, but to give you that support and that affirmation that you can do it.

Ideally you’re thinking about sort of that process of changing careers by using your relationships and networking and such, but instead of seeing networking as, okay, I’ll put my resume together and I’ll go talk to folks and say, Hey, you know, here’s my resume, do you know anybody that’s hiring? You actually start with just talking to people with genuine curiosity, which kind of goes back to the idea of the informational interview, we used to call these networking conversations. I think it’s really about being genuinely curious and asking questions that are just more meaty.

[36:02] Damianne President: Emily made several recommendations of questions to ask for you to get help if you’re interested in a job or career change. You can find the link to the video in the show notes or on the Changes Big and Small Youtube channel 

[36:18] Emily Lamia: People are generally pretty happy to help others grow and develop and point them in the right direction. So sometimes it’s just about being able to be eloquent and polished when you say here’s what I do know. I know I need to change X or I know I like Y, and then being able to say, but here’s where I’m still stuck or here’s what I don’t know. And here’s what I want to find out. Can you help me with finding directions on these different ideas? I think that’s probably what I would say.

[36:44] Damianne President: If you’re interested in learning more about Emily’s work, you can visit her website at and that link will be in the show notes. 

[36:56] Invitation/Challenge

[36:56] Damianne President: Emily, usually I ask people to give a challenge or an invitation to listeners, but you’ve already given people so many different actions that they can do. However, as we wrap up, is there anything else that you want to add that you would like listeners to consider or to do?

[37:13] Emily Lamia: Keeping with our conversation about relationships, what I’d say is, if you’re not really searching for a new job or anything, but you want to make your work and your relationships more meaningful, I would suggest thinking about the folks that you haven’t maybe connected with and had as much interaction with over the last year or 18 months over the pandemic and really just think about what success would be for reconnecting with them. What is it that you might be able to offer them or why do you miss their friendship or their relationship, and sort of share that with them. I think everybody feels nice when someone says, I miss talking to you. So that would be one thing. 

And if you are thinking about trying to make a change in your career, I think my call to action for you in utilizing your relationships would be to get genuinely curious about the things that you don’t know, and the things that genuinely interest you, and talk to folks who are doing those things. 

Maybe you know some folks who are doing the things that you’re interested in. Reconnect with them and ask them how they’re doing, what’s keeping them up at night. And if you don’t know those folks, now is a better time than ever to connect with people who are not even in your city and town. Zoom makes us all totally accessible, given maybe some time difference issues, but those are pretty easily resolved. So in some ways the world is wide open for you to make connections with people that are in totally different places than you are right now. So kind of use that as an opportunity to start forming some relationships and learn about what other folks are doing, if you’re genuinely curious about their work.

[38:48] Damianne President: Excellent. Thank you. I was going to ask about networking, but you just pulled it all together for us. Thank you very much. 

[38:55] Emily Lamia: This has been super fun to talk about these pieces. I could talk about this all day. 

[39:00] Damianne President: Well, your expertise is clear in this topic and I appreciate you making time to chat.

What is it that uniquely works for you? What triggers you? How do you approach your work? What do you need to be your best self? 


About the Author
I'm a curious problem solver.

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