Is it important to have work friends?

Work was once a major source of friendships. We took our families to company picnics and invited our colleagues over for dinner. The assumption nowadays is that workplace friendships aren’t necessary and may even get in the way.  Sadly, work has become a more transactional place – it is all about productivity. Work is about getting things done, so your value’s inevitably linked to what you contribute. We go to the office to be efficient, not to form bonds. We have plenty of productive conversations but fewer meaningful relationships.

Decades of Gallup research runs counter to that notion. In fact, Gallup has determined that having a best friend at work can turn a moderately engaged worker into a highly engaged one. The upgrade is significant because highly engaged workers contribute more to the bottom line. Research shows that workers are happier in their jobs when they have friendships with co-workers. Employees report that when they have friends at work, their job is more fun, enjoyable, worthwhile, and satisfying. Gallup found that close work friendships boost employee satisfaction by 50% and people with a best friend at work are seven times more likely to engage fully in their work.

Stop trying to keep work and life separate

Separation of work and life is important, but so is happiness. In a quest for a happy workplace that boosts engagement as well as the bottom line, workplace experts have measured all manner of things, from salaries to feedback to mentorship opportunities, and suggest a variety of fixes. Unfortunately, none of those add up to what well-being experts consider a thriving life. Indeed, they say that meaningful work, leisure time, and positive emotions can’t hold a candle to relationships.

Compelling reasons to make friends at work

While companies often pay significant attention to loyalty toward the organisation, the best employers recognise that loyalty also exists among employees toward one another. All employees have ‘leaving moments’ when they examine whether to leave or stay at an organisation. The best managers in the world observe that the quality and depth of employees’ relationships is a critical component of employee loyalty.

Face it — most of your waking hours are spent at work! You see your co-workers more than you see your partner and family. If you’re not close with anyone at work, it would make all of that time intolerable. Seeing a friendly face will make the time pass more quickly than if you’re isolated in your cubicle.

Your job isn’t just a list of tasks once you have friends surrounding you. It is also about creating a common sense of purpose and the mentality that we are in-it together. You will care about the people you’re working with and the community you’re building within the company. If you know that your work impacts friends in other departments – all the more reason to work harder and efficiently. You learn to rely on each other, and share the good and the bad as a team. In short, camaraderie promotes a group loyalty that results in a shared commitment to and discipline toward the work.

When the office is a fun and happy place, it shows. You can feel it right away when you enter the building. If roars of laughter echo through the halls and employees walk around with smiles on their faces, any potential new hire will be excited to learn more about the company. Organisations should view workplace friendships as an integral part of their company’s culture, and work to promote and value them. It will appeal to future hires, and help current employees feel like they want to stay with the company for a long time.

Are there downsides to friendships at work? Sure, there can be bumps: professional jealousy, groupthink, negative cliques, split loyalties, loss of work time to socialising, and broken friendships. However, these are all manageable and the benefits of positive relationships far outweigh any negative outcomes. The discovery of a quantifiable link between friendship and business results strongly suggests that fostering friendships should be a management priority.

Most people know you cannot advance far in life without strong interpersonal relationships. Focusing on relationships will help you get a job, get promoted and make new friends. Well-honed social skills can increase your happiness and satisfaction and give you a better outlook on life.

Maurice Kerrigan Africa offers a two-day training course on Influential Business Communication that will equip you with the communication skills you need to have a greater degree of influence within your organisation and with other people – both at work and privately.  This course will also give you an understanding of three interpersonal transactional models, providing insight into your own and other personality styles and approaches. Getting along and understanding people will help to open many personal and career-related doors.

You might be interested in attending Maurice Kerrigan Africa’s upcoming course scheduled for 25-26 July, 2016 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Click here to look at Maurice Kerrigan Africa’s public course training schedule.

To find out more about the training courses offered by Maurice Kerrigan Africa or to arrange an appointment, simply call +27 11 794 1251 or email




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