Since I met my friend Peg in 10th grade, we’ve been through many of life’s ups and downs together. We’ve faded in and out of focus over the years, although in recent years our life changes have brought us closer than ever before.
I have been drowning at work, and she was my lifesaver when I met her for lunch last week. She listened from the heart and shared her perspective. She helped me see what was happening and what I needed to do. I left our date with a sense of lightness that I had not felt in months, clarity about my responsibility for swimming to the shore, and insight into the direction I needed to go.
This got me thinking about how important friendship is, not just in my personal life but for bringing my best to the office. I spent some time asking myself questions like these:
- What is my experience of friendship at work?
- How do I feel about mixing friends and work?
- Who would I call a friend at work?
- How am I a friend to others at work?
- What role do friends outside of work have in being my best at work?
- What role do friends play in my ability to be effective at the office?
- Where is friendship most helpful to me?
- How can I strengthen my friendships at work?
As I explored the role of friends in our work, I discovered there is a Wikipedia page on workplace friendship and research showing that those with friends at work are more engaged, successful and productive, and that workplace friendship can affect workers’ sense of cohesion, job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and intention to leave. That didn’t surprise me. I believe in having friends at work. I also believe that the friends in my life outside of work have a significant impact on my work.
I learned that people have different ideas and feelings about the role of friendship in the workplace, and I found some interesting statistics about friendship in the America workplace (Debunking The ‘No Friends At Work’ Rule: Why Friend-Friendly Workplaces Are The Future by Dorie Clark for Forbes):
- Less than a quarter of Americans say they are truly satisfied with their friendships and almost two-thirds lack confidence in even their closest friends.
- Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers are hit hardest by the trend, indicating a “mid-life friendship slump.”
- Most Americans – by more than 2-to-1 – would prefer to have deeper friendships, rather than more friends.
- 36 percent of adults met at least one of their closest friends at work. This rises to 42 percent for Gen-Xers (age 35-49) and to 50 percent for Baby Boomers (age 50-69).
For me, friends – both at work and outside of work – help us see reality more clearly, show us different perspectives on situations, and enable us to choose joy and fun and positivity. Friends care about you. They ensure you know you are not alone and make tough things bearable. Friends believe in you, sometimes more than you believe in yourself. They are there for you and cheer you on when you’re challenged. They rejoice with you and celebrate the little and big victories. Friends are fuel that provides energy for doing great stuff. Great friends are great leaders in our lives.
What do you think? Is friendship important for work? Why or why not?
*Thanks to Jennifer Paylor, one of my dear friends at work, for the little book of friendship from which the quotes used here were taken.
* Thanks, too, to my many amazing friends inside and outside of work. Your leadership is inspiring and makes this journey we call life abundantly delicious.