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Friendships At Work

At the office, I have the privilege of sitting next to a great friend of mine. Jennifer Spaulding is my “cube-mate,” my counterpart on the marketing team, and a great mentor. I did not know her before I started my career at Credera but over the past year (and after countless soy chai lattes) we have developed a great friendship. Because we are advocates for each other in both our professional and personal lives, I trust her and truly enjoy working with her. I am thankful to have a colleague who encourages me, gives me great advice, and will tell me the hard truth when I need to hear it.

But why does this matter? Is it really important to foster friendships in the workplace? Camaraderie in the workplace matters tremendously. Let me share a few reasons why:

  1. Friendships create meaning behind work.

There is a fundamental link between happiness and productivity. Because of this, researchers have increasingly concentrated on determining the ways in which employees can gain purpose and meaning from their work. Tamara Erickson, acclaimed researcher and one of today’s top 50 business thought leaders, found that in today’s work environment employees are actually “less motivated by money than by the connection they feel at work.” Friendship is the key to that connection.

Let me illustrate. Last year, after only a few short months into my employment with Credera, my colleagues threw me a beautiful bridal shower. I was (and still am) completely flattered by their kind gesture and thankful for their act of friendship. They hardly knew me but took time out of their week to make a toast to my future marriage and to shower me with gifts. In the weeks leading up to my wedding they asked about the progress of my plans, gave me advice from their own wedding experiences, and expressed genuine excitement for me. Frankly, no bonus or monetary reward could trump the effects of their friendship to my job satisfaction.

Not only do genuine friendships in the workplace provide job satisfaction and increased productivity, they are directly correlated to retention. A recent study conducted by Gallup revealed that “while companies often pay significant attention to the loyalty employees feel toward the organization, the best employers recognize that loyalty also exists among employees toward one another.” In fact, Gallup boldly argues that one of the primary characteristics of a great workplace is one where employees respond affirmatively to this statement: “I have a best friend at work.” 

  1. True friendships make us better.

Workplace friendships foster a company culture that is supportive and competitive in the best possible way. As iron sharpens iron, friendships made of talented and hard-working colleagues spur each other on toward greatness.

Paige is another colleague who I consider a friend. Paige and I were hired as recruiters a week apart from each other. The week we were hired, we hit the ground running and grew close as we leaned on each other during that busy time. Paige is diligent, excellent at her craft, and is the type of person who makes friends with every taxi cab driver, barista, and candidate who crosses her path.

There have been times when Paige would bring in four or five new hires in a month—blowing my number completely out of the water. It would be a lie to say that I am not competitive. But was I jealous? No, I was happy that her hard work paid off. Did it fill me with a determination to work that much harder to beat her hire number the next month? Absolutely!

  1. Friends care enough to correct us.

Believe it or not, a company culture that encourages workplace friendships is actually not a perfectly serene environment complete with harmonious, company-wide recitations of “Kumbaya.” (Read Matt Levy’s recent blog on Conflict is Opportunity for proof).

Proverbs 27:6 says, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” Even when it is difficult, friends share the truth with each other. True friendships are valuable to both parties and lip service benefits no one.

We know our friends in the workplace on a deeper level than our supervisors. This provides a unique and powerful opportunity to encourage each other and sharpen one another. Sharing your concerns or thoughtful feedback directly with that friend can help them improve tremendously. While that conversation may be awkward or difficult, if you truly have the other’s benefit in mind, sharing the truth is one of the most loving things you can do.

The benefits listed above are merely the tip of the iceberg. I encourage you to build meaningful friendships with your colleagues and find out for yourself how fruitful they can be. Get to know one another, champion each other’s ideas, support each other’s work both inside and outside of the office. Tweet each other. Grab lunch, a latte, or a beer together. Laugh together. Learn how you can help or encourage that person, and then do it.

Have you experienced the fruits of work place friendships? Share your story in the comments below.

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