Mills: Mixing friendship in the workplace

Five years ago, the Gallup Organization conducted research on how to best measure what elements make for a strong work environment and an engaged workforce.

Five years ago, the Gallup Organization conducted research on how to best measure what elements make for a strong work environment and an engaged workforce.

They asked hundreds of questions, ultimately settling on just 12. The Gallup survey—often called a Q12—identifies the core factors that best determine how successful an organization will be in attracting, focusing and retaining talent. It measures a full range of elements that employees look for in their jobs, and from their managers.

The Q12 includes questions related to how well equipped and how well supported employees feel when doing their work. The questions progress to deeper issues related to the feedback and encouragement that is provided to them on a regular basis.

In my opinion one of the most intriguing questions that the Q12 asks is, “Do I have a best friend at work?” I have seen managers and employees react with varying ranges of discomfort in considering this question.

Usually they ask what does it mean to have a “best friend” at work and why would it matter to how I do my job?

The implications are more meaningful than one would expect.

Typically, the scepticism starts with what “best” means. For some it reminds them of a childhood experience that, as adults, they don’t expect to have in the same way.

That is likely true, however, the desire to bond with others is a natural human instinct that stays with us.

Choosing our best friend when we were young might have been easy or it likely evolved based on trial and error. In any case, early friendships tended to form based on shared interests and feelings of trust and mutual support.

We might define that special or “best” friend as the one person we trusted wholeheartedly to listen when we needed to talk things through and to keep our confidences. That friend didn’t judge us when we stumbled and was consistently there when we needed them for encouragement and support.

It has been said that friendship makes our burdens half as heavy and our joys twice as big—because they’re shared. We still need that as adults, so how is friendship not of value in the workplace?

We spend so much of our lives at work. That whole world can be so much more satisfying and fulfilling if we have a friend to share it with—someone who understands because they’re living it with you.

What the Gallup research discovered is that managers can and should direct the core things that engage people in their work—giving clear direction, support, feedback and recognition. These form the foundation for great workplaces.

Staying with a great employer is a personal, individual decision. Beyond the basics, talented employees are more likely to stay if they feel they truly belong.

This sense of belonging comes from finding meaning in one’s work, feeling valued as an employee and forming closeness with colleagues that enriches the day to day work experience. You may not have a best friend at work, or you may be one of the lucky ones who do.

Either way, it is worth pausing to consider how much better your work life is or would be with at least one trusted ally who always has your back, just as you have theirs.

Laurie Mills is a certified coach and human resource professional.



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