Magazine article Management Today

Vital Signs Who's Your Friend?

Magazine article Management Today

Vital Signs Who's Your Friend?

Article excerpt

How many friends do you have to have before you start killing them? The Talented Mr Ripley took it all rather far in his trajectory to Somebody status. He killed his role model, killed another friend who was on to him for imposture, killed his lover and would have sliced Gwyneth Paltrow if someone hadn't turned up.

Friends can be tiresome. They can make you waste time doing silly things; they can be an opportunity cost -- you could be cultivating the chairman or the kindly venture capitalist who'll incubate your dot.com. They can be deeply embarrassing creatures, wild and woolly, way off the careerist message. Worst of all, they can know too much about you.

Maybe that's why there's a certain sort of careerist whose friendship group is so startlingly homogenous that it leaves you gasping for air - like those power-couple parties where the men are all senior corporate types or professionals and the wives are doctors or investment bankers. Don't they know anyone else? Or have they culled the wild and woollies, the drunks, the superannuated hippies, the Hartlepool homeboys and the rest.

People's friends sometimes say the most extraordinary things: 'Of course you were out of your head on [ldots] all that year'; 'I've still got these pictures of you and Robbie in the red leathers at the Eartha Kitt night at Heaven'; 'I really didn't know you with those teeth, they're great'; 'Last I heard of you, you'd met this really rich bird -- oh, sorry, love' (to the wife).

Careerists have always culled their friends. Move to another town, another region, another country even and get some new ones. People have long memories in your home town and, anyway, careerists have to move to bigger places.

You can engineer strategic quarrels, tell them that, much as you respect them, it's never going to work because you're two such singular characters. Better still, you make their spouses hate you so much they don't dare risk seeing you. You can find God, give up social drinking, forswear major-league chemicals or unusual sex enthusiasms; and you can inveigh against it tediously. They won't want to be saved. You can invent a mission so comprehensive that they won't expect ever to see you. It's a nobrainer that if you're off saving the planet or working for the security services or marrying a royal, they'll have to cheer you on from the sidelines. …

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