Why we all need a friend at work..

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There are a couple of things that have happened in the last few weeks that have got me thinking about the importance of having friends at work.  

This heady combination of the launching of a staff survey, one of my closest work friends leaving and being asked to facilitate a session about building relationships has left me thinking about the way we interact at work.  

Back in the day I use to facilitate sessions around employee engagement I remember the heated debate surrounding the Gallup staff survey set of questions – in particular ‘I have a best friend at work’ stimulating comments such as 

‘Do people need to have a best friend at work?’ 

‘I have a best friend outside of work – why do I need one inside as well’ 

‘Is it the organisation’s business that I have a best friend at work?’ 

More information on the Gallup survey can be found here 

Well more and more I am coming to the conclusion that we do need friends at work – now to be clear this is not about people offering unconditional support, but it is about having someone who 

  • You can confide in – your worst hopes and hears 
  • Who can sense check you – is what you think the reality of the situation 
  • Is strong enough to give you the feedback that you might be sticking to something despite it not being rationale 
  • You can have a laugh with when work throws some almighty challenges our way 

My own experience tells me that we also need different types of friends at work – for example I have a football friend who I can discuss the amazing adventures of Man Utd under Ole with (I realise that this revelation may have caused some people to stop reading!) Other types of friends I have are 

  • Printing friends – When I am hogging the printer with printing off my fab handbooks for courses I hang out in their office and we chat about what’s going in our lives 
  • Strictly friends – Or more specifically in my case someone to share the latest escapades featuring my mum and Anton du Beke who she is a massive fan of!
  • Project friends – People I have worked closely with on a project who have supported and help drive it through to completion 
  • Networking friends – These are people I have met through attending CIPD events both at the Manchester Branch and the North Staffs. This group are particularly important as in my organisation I have a standalone role in the L&D team, so I find the conversations at branch events really stimulating and refreshing – they send me back to my organisation full of ideas 
  • Teams of friends – I have a couple of teams I have worked really closely with who when I am hotdesking are happy for me to hang out and feel part of the team 
  • Digital friends – People who like my posts on Linked In and Twitter – some of whom I have worked with in the past and it is a great way to reconnect 

These different types of friend all bring something to the party which is my working life and as my lovely friend Sonja would say they all help lubricate my work and the influence I am able to have in the organisation. For example, when I have a meeting, we already have a connection and a relationship which helps the conversation flow – we have a sense of where each other is coming from.  

My final thought is that friends come and go but their influence remains with us – quite recently I have been facilitating a session around ‘Understanding the Choices We Make’. One of the discussions we have is around what influences our drivers i.e. the stuff which is important to us and our friends both inside and outside of work do this for us. As part of the session one of the books I always recommend is by Mitch Alborn ‘The Five People You Meet in Heaven’ which is about the impact we have on people without realising.  Working in L&D I like to think I have an impact across the organisation and there are probably many people I have made a difference to without even realising – perhaps I have become their L&D friend – a source of support when required. And maybe in my role that’s the best type of friend to be…. 

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