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Do you have a best friend at work?

Posted by Amy Wilson on July 10, 2009


This is 1 of 12 engagement questions Gallup asks to predict business performance. It’s the quirkiest of all the questions and it also tends to be the most polarizing. HR and Business Leaders alike ask: “What does this have to do with anything?” “Are we in middle school?”

According to the February 2008 Gallup Management Journal:

Gallup itself would have dropped the statement if not for one stubborn fact: it predicts performance. Something about a deep sense of affiliation with the people in an employee’s team drives him to do positive things for the business he otherwise would not do.

The use of the word “best” often trips people up. Why not just ask about friends? Interestingly, the simple word “best” conveys an underlying meaning of trust and support. Anyone can be a friend, but only those that you care for and rely on will provide a sense of belonging and drive.

Personally speaking, I heartily agree. I have always had best friends at work. And, considering I’ve only left one employer (and that was to go to a company with “people” in the title), I’d say it’s a pretty good indicator of retention. Over my career, best friends have given me a reason to go to work in the morning, provided a safe environment in which to bounce ideas, and indulged me with both personal and big picture encouragement.

How about you – do you have best friends at work?

picture source: sanguine-art.com

8 Responses to “Do you have a best friend at work?”

  1. Malcolm said

    My friends at work are half the reason I enjoy working where I do. If it wasn’t for them I may have left some time ago. I did have a ‘best friend’, but he got laid off. I’m looking to be frieind someone else, but it won’t be the same.

  2. I’ve always thought that question was the best on the Gallup survey. I have always had good friends at work, and it does make it worthwhile to be there. I think in high involvement workplaces, it’s even better — you make friends for life.

  3. Amy Wilson said

    @Malcolm – That is so sad! Thank you for sharing and also for pointing out the social network impact of lay-offs. Everyone recognizes that workloads and emotional empathy increase as a result of a lay-off, but it is actually much worse than simple mathematics. Collaborative work bonds are shattered – these work bonds were formed to enhance an individual’s productivity, engagement, and innovation. When a best friend is laid off, the survivor is doing more than re-balancing his workload, he’s picking up the pieces of his whole working strategy.

    @Frank – I agree. I have lots of lifetime work friends. They amaze me and support me!

  4. Excellent post, Amy! The friendship/performance connection could have roots in whether there is a healthy culture of trust in the company. Whether employees respond that they do have a best friend at work can then be seen as a measure of trust in the company and a predictor of performance via the impact of trust. A company that trusts employees creates an environment where people can collaborate, share information, work cooperatively to share resources, encourage mobility, etc. – all of which can lead to overall improvement in performance. That very same trust and environment also then fosters a workplace where people with shared interests can more easily form friendships. One can see how both the direct performance benefits of a culture of trust combined with the positive motivation effects of friendship can create a positive feedback cycle.

    P.S. The trust the company has in employees can also eliminate barriers there otherwise might be to forming workplace friendships (i.e. companies that don’t trust employees would assume that friendships would either be used to take advantage of the company’s policies and practices and/or open the company to liability. Without being accusatory, one wonders how many of those who reject the validity of this question might also tend to be less trusting of employees.)

  5. Meg Bear said

    Of course the answer for me is obvious — yes I have BFFs at work. I couldn’t imagine it otherwise frankly.

  6. Ravi Banda said

    Yes, I have best friends at work. We have so many good conversations / laughs and that’s a big stress reliever.

  7. Louise Barnfield said

    You raise a great point, Amy! Having BFFs at work, and the caring/trusting/fun environment that that invokes, is and has been very important to me throughout my working life. As Ravi says, it’s a great stress reliever, and a vital support system.

    Your response about lay-offs is also very true. Often, the ones left behind have a tough time dealing with the disruption and loss – too few organizations adequately recognize and acknowledge that impact.

  8. […] know I am very lucky to have such a team.  This holiday season, I wish the same for you. Possibly related posts: (automatically […]

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