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Best Friends At Work?


The colleagues a person spends each day with are more important than their managers, according to this recent research. Whenever I show people the standard Gallup-type surveys that measure employee engagement, many often chuckle at the question asking if they have a best friend at work. I did too but they ask because there is a causative connection to getting engaged with your work, and certainly the lack thereof, or the opposite thereof, drives disengagement. If you think your day at work sucks and drags because you’re lonely, wait until you’re surrounded by jerks.

“This puts a premium on stronger employee-to-employee relationships.  HR and team leaders must prioritise the recruiting of talent that is collaborative and team-oriented.”

In New Zealand, Fonterra’s internal research found that the number one driver of their employee engagement was the behaviour of colleagues – what everyone else is doing around here…

I’m tantalisingly close to getting a deal done for the publishing of my 3rd book about adding 10 quality years to your life. Along with the usual advice on quitting smoking, eating better, exercise and so forth, it seems that one of the most powerful tools for living longer and better is not being a jerk. Strong social connectivity promotes all sorts of things that makes us healthier and happier. Part of that is success at whatever we do for a living. And social skills help that immensely.

I’m sure you can think of a millionaire jerk or a jerk who lived to 100 but they’re exceptions and who knows how much better they may have done with less jerkishness? One frosty morning does not negate the evidence of overall global warming. To believe so would make you, well, a jerk.

Best Friends At Work?

Best Friends

I read this New York Times’ article about how it is supposed to be harder to make friends once you pass the age of 30 and it reminded me of some old Gallup surveys I saw on employee engagement citing “having a best friend at work” as an indicator of employee engagement.

The article itself is quite interesting as someone myself who recently nudged over the line of [SPOILER ALERT] being closer to 60 than 30. Just. Recently.

“Gallup also observed that employees who report having a best friend at work were:

  • 43% more likely to report having received praise or recognition for their work in the last seven days.
  • 37% more likely to report that someone at work encourages their development.
  • 35% more likely to report coworker commitment to quality.
  • 28% more likely to report that in the last six months, someone at work has talked to them about their progress.
  • 27% more likely to report that the mission of their company makes them feel their job is important.
  • 27% more likely to report that their opinions seem to count at work.
  • 21% more likely to report that at work, they have the opportunity to do what they do best every day.”

I don’t know if ‘having a best friend at work’ really is a major driver of employee engagement. It stirs up conversations for sure whenever I bring it up in workshops. Even Gallup referred to it as “controversial” but they stuck by it. I guess I can see it as symptomatic of a workplace culture that allows trust, belonging, contribution, support and all those good things that do definitely drive engagement. Certainly, on the flipside, those without employment at any time also lose a massive chunk of chance to interact socially which us humans definitely need. Losing a job isn’t just losing a pay-cheque.

So, what does work provide that potentially generates and builds friendships?

“As external conditions change, it becomes tougher to meet the three conditions that sociologists since the 1950s have considered crucial to making close friends: proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other…”

Where these days (or ever) do those conditions occur? Schools and workplaces. And if you’re over 30, you’re probably not at school anymore. (Maybe we all should be?) Unless you’re a teacher. But then, that also counts a workplace. Teachers must have lots of friends.

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