Posted by: healingtheworkplace | September 15, 2017

Do You Have a Best Friend at Work?

Do You Have a Friend at Work?

Years ago I was asked to develop an employee satisfaction survey as part of an HR team. After doing some research and giving it a lot of thought we recommended the Gallop Employee Engagement Survey. The Gallop Survey is considered to be the gold standard in the world of employee surveys and is used in all manner of organizations through-out the world.

You can imagine our surprise when the boss told us that he didn’t like the fact that we were focusing on friendship and asked us to rewrite Item Number 10. His argument being that he was paying people to work and not to socialize. His reaction caused us to reconsider and to dig deeper into the reasons why Gallup chose to keep Item Number 10 despite widespread criticism.

The Most Controversial Gallup Question

Item Number 10: I have a best friend at work, is considered the most controversial of the 12 items on the survey, so perhaps my boss wasn’t that far off the mark when he asked us to reword it before he would let us proceed.

Of course, changing Item 10 wasn’t an option and in the end the boss agreed to continue with the survey as it was intended to be used. The Gallup Employee Engagement questionnaire is based on years of research into what makes a workplace healthy. In addition, high scores on the survey are consistently linked to workplaces that are

  • productive,
  • profitable, and
  • score high on customer satisfaction and employee retention.

Health Benefits of Friendship

 It seems that everyone benefits when employees are encouraged to have a best friend at work.

According to the experts at the Mayo Clinic in New York, having a friend can “Boost your happiness and reduce your stress. Improve your self-confidence and self-worth. Help you cope with traumas, such as divorce, serious illness, job loss or the death of a loved one, among other things.”

Making Friends is Not Always Easy

 But, it’s not always easy to make new friends or to keep the ones we have. Friendship takes a lot of work which sounds counterintuitive. Why should something enjoyable require so much effort? Of course children make friends fairly easily but as adults we often find that our friendships take a backseat to other things in our lives such as caring for elderly parents or the demands of work. Sometimes we move away from the friends that we grew up with and may find that as adults, it’s not as easy to make new friends.

Author Shasta Nelson notes that there are three requirements for friendship:

  • consistency,
  • positivity, and
  • vulnerability.

It’s easier to maintain a consistent friendship if you have fewer friends. Nelson recommends that we aim for four or five close friends. I think positivity speaks for itself. None of us want to be around people who are constantly negative. Of course our friends will go through difficult times and will need our support but I know from experience that spending time with negative people can be emotionally and physically draining. Nelson’s third and final requirement is vulnerability. Sharing the different parts of ourselves both the good and the not so good goes a long way to building friendships based on trust.

In 2016, Fast Company reported that people are less likely to have friends at work than they were in the past. This is due in part because in years gone by people were more likely to stay with the same company for decades while today workers are more likely to move on after only a few years.

Getting back to the controversy over Item # 10 on the Gallup survey: Should we have friends at work? Yes, of course we should and many of us do. We spend a good part of our lives at work and as adults we are likely to make friends with the people we work with day in and day out.

But, the workplace is changing. We may not find it easy to make friends there. Or we may chose not to make the effort, wanting instead to keep work and life outside of work separate.

What do you think?

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