Why workplace friendships matter
In the corporate world, having workplace friendships is often seen as a luxury or even a distraction from the essential tasks at hand. However, the truth is that having solid relationships with colleagues can be highly beneficial to both individuals and the company.
I don’t know about you, but some of my most valued and deeply enriching friendships have come from former work colleagues. I’m writing this article, having lost one of my old friends.
Death, they say, is the great leveller. We take a fresh view of life after hearing a eulogy or observing an old friend’s sudden passing.
Yes, life goes on, and the memories are forever in our hearts. However, on reflection, we forget that it takes years to build a friendship.
In a recent article that I wrote, we explored TALKing backwards, which refers to ‘Know, Like, Advocate, Trust’. These are the four building blocks of a solid relationship between a company and their client, brand leader and their audience and when establishing friends in the workplace:
1. Know: First, we become aware of the person. We start with some small talk about the weather. Then, uncover their name, status, hobbies and social outlets.
2. Like: Now that we are familiar with them, we begin to like them and want to know more about their interests or opinions. How they feel about universal matters that affect us in the work environment and further afield. We like their aura, the way they present themselves, and the way they consistently uphold their ethos and values.
3. Advocate: At this point, we become an advocate for them and have a greater sense of empathy. This means that we actively support, encourage and promote them to others. We introduce them to our peers and vouch for the quality of their work and service to others.
4. Trust: We finally reach the highest level: trust. At this point, we don’t hesitate to drop everything we’re doing for them. Somewhere between stages 3 (Advocate) and 4 (Trust), ‘like’ turns to ‘love’ — not the same kind you have for your partner or family, of course, but a unique type of love that encompasses more than camaraderie.
The real power behind workplace friendships
One of the most significant benefits of having friends in the workplace is increased job satisfaction. When employees feel like they have a support system at work, they are more likely to feel engaged and motivated to perform well. This can lead to better productivity and overall job performance, which is good for both the employee and the company.
Another significant benefit is increased collaboration and teamwork. When people feel comfortable with their colleagues, they are more likely to share ideas and work together to solve problems. This can lead to more creative solutions and more cohesive team dynamics.
In addition, having friends at work can also help reduce stress and improve mental health. Work can be a high-stress environment, and having people to talk to and confide in can make a big difference in an employee’s overall well-being. This can lead to lower rates of absenteeism and turnover, which can be costly for businesses.
The picture above is a Christmas reunion in December 2022. I joined Tinet in April 2003, and since then, we have had a Christmas party / now a reunion almost every year.
Since the pandemic, I believe loyalty to the organisation and job loyalty are now massively under threat.
One of my friends has changed jobs three times in two years. The friendships that would have been formed back in the office are no longer commonplace.
I am sure that future research will demonstrate how remote working has drastically impacted the organisation’s culture and retention of key members.
Finding the balance
However, it’s important to note that building strong relationships at work takes time and effort. It’s not something that can be forced, and it requires a certain level of authenticity and vulnerability.
It’s also important to maintain professional boundaries and avoid favouritism or cliques, which can be detrimental to the team as a whole.
The importance of friends in the corporate environment is not just a matter of intuition or common sense, it is also supported by scientific research.
Two notable experts on the subject are Robin Dunbar and the late Dale Carnegie. Robin Dunbar, an evolutionary psychologist, has conducted extensive research on the importance of social relationships in human life.
His famous “Dunbar’s number” theory proposes that humans can only maintain meaningful social relationships with a maximum of around 150 individuals. Within this number, there are smaller groups of varying sizes, such as a core group of five “best friends.”
Dunbar says these close relationships are crucial to our mental and physical health and overall well-being. Unfortunately, this group of friendships can also dictate our life expectancy, which is a scary thought, the older you get.
However, there is a way around it: to replace them by investing more time with old friends.
In the corporate environment, this means that having a few close friends at work is crucial to our professional success and personal satisfaction.
These friends can provide emotional support, social validation, and a sense of belonging, all of which contribute to a positive work environment.
Additionally, close work relationships have been shown to increase employee engagement and productivity, which benefits both the individual and the company.
Dale Carnegie, was an American writer, lecturer, and expert on the subject of friendship in the workplace. His book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, originally published in October 1936 has become a classic guide to building strong relationships, both in and out of the workplace.
Carnegie emphasises the importance of empathy, active listening, and positive communication in building successful relationships. In the workplace, this means taking the time to understand and appreciate our colleagues’ perspectives, being responsive to their needs and concerns, and communicating clearly and respectfully.
Don’t wait too long to make workplace friendships
In a recent HBR article titled The Power of Work Friends, Jon Clifton, chief executive officer of Gallup, a global analytics and advisory firm, shares data that having a best friend at work is strongly linked to business outcomes, including improvements in profitability, safety, inventory control, and employee retention.
Deep down inside, we have always known the true meaning of creating good friends in the workplace. That’s why we’re told never to eat our lunch alone.
So, as you are reading this article, stop, pick up the phone, maybe send a text to a current or former work colleague and offer to take them out to lunch.
I assure you that you will feel better, and be more productive when you return to your desk; overall, it will have an immediate positive impact on your well-being.
The handshake of true friendship. A former work colleague (in the garden), a great friend, a business mentor, and a remarkable father-in-law.
13th May 1939 – 29th January 2023
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