Summer Fridays and throwing yourself on the cross

Summer Fridays

I love me some summer Fridays, and the season hath officially arrived. If you think even for a second that your office will be over 50 percent full at 4pm today, well, I got a bridge in Brooklyn I can sell you. I actually e-mailed someone a few days ago re: something potentially due today and she told me, “I’ll be off the clock by 11am Friday.” No doubt, baby! I love it when people are honest about work, because it so infrequently happens.

I’ve written about summer Fridays a few times: here and here. As I said, I love me the concept — but not for all the logical, overt reasons.

Summer Fridays and transparency

To me, work can be great — with the right mix of people, passion, products, and projects (4Ps, baby! Look out for my new book up-selling that model!) — but it can also be a tear-inducing sham of humanity, and the latter often happens from working with assholes and idiots and having no clear priority on what anyone is trying to accomplish.

One of the biggest things that differentiates “cool people” from “assholes and idiots” is a total lack of transparency. This is when you have a manager who keeps claiming one thing is important — “your career growth” or something — when in reality, something else — “My bonus!” — is way more important. The manager thinks they’re being slick and showing you the right things — i.e. “I care about you and where you’re headed in this company!” — but every action they take is about grabbing more perks and scratch for themselves. They’ll throw you under a train at any moment and then say a week later, “Well, I just value your contributions so much.”

You see other versions of this: the marketing decision-makers who claim to care about digital, then never discuss it at all. The execs who claim they want to compete on a good talent strategy, then only kick cover-your-ass projects over to HR, never engaging them on actual talent approaches.

In short: there’s a lot of people you’ll end up working with who talk out of both sides of their mouth. This isn’t breaking news.

There is almost nowhere where The Transparency Gap shines more than around summer Fridays. Let’s begin with the basic knowledge we need to have here:

Because of these two things, summer Fridays terrify some people. “My boss is saying I can take off the entire day, or leave at 1pm … but if I’m not constantly talking about how busy I am and people see me leaving at 1:05pm, will I be viewed as less relevant?”

A hard-charging, Type-A office d-bag has no idea how to reconcile this gap, so here’s what traditionally happens:

  • “No time for summer Fridays,” they’ll below, “I’m hitting all my marks! Putting in 75 this week!” (Often this is via e-mail, sent from a bar six blocks away)
  • “I wish I could enjoy summer Fridays,” they explain, “but I’m just so buried right now on Q2 revenue adjustments.” (Sent from the beach, where their phone is predominantly on mute)
  • “Summer Fridays would be a great concept,” they tell others, “but we’ve all got so much work to do.” (15 minutes later, they’re surfing Pinterest to check out home-made soaps.)

This is the deal with summer Fridays: everyone secretly goes and enjoys it to an extent, but everyone throws themselves on the cross in 191 different ways as they do so. It’s an amazing cycle to watch.

Summer Fridays and reality 

If you’ve ever had an office job, you know there are two times of year where stuff moves slower and doesn’t really matter as much: typically the period from about the Friday before Thanksgiving until the first day back after New Year’s, and then most of the summer. Most people look at the summer as (a) a pocket of time where they need to take vacation/do things, especially if they have kids and (b) a generally slower time at work. This isn’t true of all companies, of course — some have huge events during the summer or whatever, and in those cases, it’s a bit different.


But if you were to line up 100 middle managers/execs in 100 different industries/verticals, I bet most would associate the summer with a slower time. “Summertime, and the living’s easy…” Summer Fridays are a huge part of that.

Case in point: a few summers back, I had this gig for the summer at a big health care firm. It was supposed to be about 12 weeks, as in, I was only there for 12 weeks. In my first meeting with the lady managing me, she says to me, “Well, I’ve got some vacations scheduled with my husband, so I’ll be gone for about five of the weeks you’re here.” I was like, “What?” This was a gig that could have been a ticket to a sweet, $90K-style job — and the lady with responsibility for me was going to disappear for half the time? And basically not see my work? Couldn’t she maybe have told me that before I started?

Of course not. Summertime, and the living’s easy…

Anyway, the point is — most people look at summers in an office in a very specific, laid-back, oh-I’ll-be-out-of-pocket-a-lot-anyway context. But then when summer Fridays are mentioned, instantly they need to defend their perch and relevance. “I can’t enjoy that! I’ve got revenue dragons to slay!” It’s always fun to watch.

Welcome to summer Fridays season, friends.

Ted Bauer

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