When it comes to career satisfaction and being happy at work, guess which factor matters the most? It’s not the nature of our work. It’s not even the money. It’s the people we work with.
Yep, it turns out the person sitting next to you could make or break how happy you are at work. According to a study by Censuswide, when respondents were asked what made them value their careers, 39% said their colleagues. The nature of their work came in second at 36%, followed by a sense of achievement at 34%. Money came in last, at 30%. The moral of the story? Your work friends count. And, if you’re lucky, you have a work wife.
“A work wife is someone who you have a personal and professional bond with — someone who you can be your whole self around and who allows you to bring your whole self to your work,” says Erica Cerulo, who, with her work wife, Claire Mazur, launched the popular fashion and design website Of a Kind.
Cerulo and Mazur join us on Episode 151 of the HerMoney with Jean Chatzky podcast to discuss their new book, “Work Wife: The Power of Female Friendship to Drive Successful Businesses,” and how all of us can benefit from these relationships—personally, professionally and financially. Here’s what we learned:
The most important qualities of a work wife relationship.
What makes work wife relationships different than your other friendships at work? With any relationship, you hope to have trust and a shared sense of accountability, but work wives take these two qualities to the next level with the v-factor: vulnerability. These relationships require a level vulnerability that doesn’t just make you feel comfortable bringing your whole self to work — it encourages you to.
“You have to be willing to say, ‘Look, I’m having a really hard time right now, either because of this thing that’s happening in our workday, or this thing that’s happening separately,’ and you can’t be scared that you’re going to be judged for feeling down or for not being as productive as you want to be,” explains Cerulo. “You have to be able to express those things and not feel like you’re showing your cards, or that this is a competitive relationship or that you have to hide those things from someone.”
Signs you can take your relationship to the next level.
Once you’ve got the trust, accountability and vulnerability down, you may want to evaluate if your relationship could actually be the start to a successful partnership, like Of a Kind’s Cerulo and Mazur, TheSkimm’s Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin, Quilt’s Gianna Wurzl and Ashley Sumner, or and Rent the Runway’s Jennifer Hyman and Jenny Fleiss? Mazur says she and her partner hold each other to high standards, every day. “I think we’ve both always had high standards, but not about the exact same things—and that means it raises the stakes for each of us.”
For example, Mazur is passionate about impeccable design, and Cerulo puts an emphasis on grammar. “We both feel compelled to sort of up our game in each of those areas and it makes us so much stronger,” she says.
Sharing your personal lives in the workplace.
“What we think is so interesting about the relationships between women at work is that they really start to defy the basic principles of office rules that were written by men a really long time ago, that we all sort of just internalize — things like ‘Don’t bring your personal life to work,” says Mazure. “Well, you know, there are certain things that are unique to women that make it impossible not to bring your personal life to work. For example, being pregnant—you can’t leave a pregnant belly at home.”
And she’s speaking from recent experience. Mazure’s seven-week old son, Cam, was sitting on her lap during our interview. Bringing more of your real self to work creates stronger connections and a culture of honesty, comfort, support and so much more.
Discuss money with your besties.
Regardless of whether you’re thinking of going into business with a friend, being able to talk about money with one another is a powerful and important practice. Start with the assumption that you’re likely coming to finances from two different places, just as you might with a romantic partner.That’s what Cerulo and Mazur did. Their advice? Know how your partner’s childhood may have shaped her views on money. “When writing the book and interviewing different sets of business partners about how they handled money, a lot of them brought up the fact that they knew what each other’s upbringing looked like and how that shaped their relationships to money,” says Cerulo. “Having that understanding really helped in difficult conversations about money.” For more advice, play the episode below or tune in here.
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