Victoria Noe

Award-winning Author, Speaker, Activist

When Your Best Friend is Your Boss

We spend a good part – perhaps the majority – of our waking hours at work: shared purpose, shared cubicles, shared snack room. The people we work with become a second family. For some people they may actually serve as a family. Most of the friendships we make last only for the time we’re in the same building. Other friendships may carry over to weekends or vacations. Some few become long-term, deeply important friendships.
One such friendship is at the center of a story in today’s Chicago Tribune:
 “When word spread of Chief Executive James Tyree’s death spread through the 12 floors of Mesirow Financial late on March 16, several dozen employees converged on President Richard Price’s office to console each other. ‘There seemed to be a magnetic pull to Richard’s office,’ Dennis Black, Mesirow’s general counsel, recalled. ‘Richard pulled out a bottle of vodka that a client had given him, and we passed it around the crowd as though we were sitting around a campfire.’ Initially it was a hushed scene. Then, stories about Tyree, a charismatic leader in Chicago’s business community, began to flow, along with tears. ‘Richard encouraged the sharing, and everyone who stopped in left knowing that we were all going to be all right,’ Black said.”
James Tyree, the chief executive of Mesirow Financial in Chicago, was seriously ill with stomach cancer. Still, his death, due to improper removal of a catheter during a routine procedure, was accidental and unexpected. Two days later, Richard Price was named CEO. Tyree wasn’t only his boss; he was his best friend.
So here was a man, in shock from the news of his best friend’s death, consoling others who worked with him, too. Here was a man who not only had to come back to work, but step into his friend’s job. Here, too, was a man who not only continues to ensure employees who need grief counseling receive it, but who gets it for himself, too.
Many of us welcome work as a diversion for our grief. But few of us are as lucky as James Tyree’s friends, to work in a place where their grief is respected, and support is readily available.
They’re lucky not just for knowing James Tyree, but for knowing his best friend as well.

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