Whether I’m working with a client who is struggling in their current role or finds them self in transition, upon deeper examination of the various difficulties in these situations, one theme surfaces – one rooted in grief and loss of a key relationship at work or friend in the workplace. Gallup discovered that job satisfaction is directly tied to having a best friend at work. As silly as it sounds, it is significant and the loss of this relationship can have a substantial impact.
A friend at work is someone who serves as a sounding board and lightens the emotional load in the workplace. Having a close confidant at work provides many benefits. Another layer of complexity is added for those who work remotely as the dynamic of establishing and maintaining relationships from afar is much different, and arguably, even more important. The lesson here is that connection matters.
You might be asking yourself, “Do I have a best friend at work?” I hope you find the answer to be yes. We all need personal relationships, whether at work or at home. These relationships serve to ground us and increase overall satisfaction at work. Here are five reasons why having a friend at work is so important:
- A trusted sounding board. Situations often arise, especially at work, where you need another perspective regarding the dynamics in the workplace and someone who knows the landscape. Whatever the reason, having a safe someone you can trust and who you know has your back is both healthy and necessary. Friends and family provide a great sounding board, but cannot fill this role in the same way because they cannot truly understand the full scope of the situation.
- Grounded in research. For those who are hesitant or don’t see the value in a best friend in the workplace, there is research to back this up. When studying employee engagement, Gallup regularly asks if the respondent has a best friend at work and this question has turned out to be quite controversial. But according to the stats, women who have a best friend at work are more than twice as likely to feel engaged at work compared to their counterparts (Gallup Workplace, 2018).
- Balances personal and professional identities. Happiness and engagement are often about an ability to be yourself. Having someone that you trust, value and look forward to seeing each day at work allows you to be you. You know that someone has your best interest at heart, will speak highly of the work you do, but also keep you in check. Having a best friend at work provides a forum to dish about what’s happening in a way that alleviates emotional load without adding negativity or fueling gossip.
- When you work remotely. Today, more and more workers spend some or all of their time working remotely. Building relationships at work requires greater intention. Identifying a best friend at work, even when working remotely, is essential to feeling a strong connection to your work and overall engagement. It can alleviate the feeling of isolation and once again, provides the much needed second-perspective as you decipher and navigate your world of work.
- It’s lonely at the top. They say it’s lonely at the top, and for many executives, this is true. Having someone at work who can serve as a much-needed sounding board and a safe space to be your most vulnerable self is important no matter what your level. But because most employees in the organization report to you either directly or indirectly and these relationships need to maintain a certain level of professionalism, executives have to find their “best friend at work” through industry peers and mentors.
What’s important to remember is that jobs change and eventually, you or your best friend at work might move onto to a new opportunity. With this comes a grieving period because work as you know it has changed. As you transition, allow yourself an adjustment period and know that new relationships will be forged with time. Though it will never be the same as what you had, a new friend will fill the void and eventually provide the necessary support to continue to succeed in the workplace.
In this season of joy and gratitude, this is a reminder to be thankful for the relationships in your life. If you have a best friend at work – someone whom you look forward to seeing each day, can always grab lunch or happy hour with, and who understands your role and provides much needed introspection – remember to be grateful for that person in your life. Know that you are a better employee and professional because of that relationship. When the time comes for one of you to move on, focus on building new relationships and know that you will find connection again, when you least expect it.