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Workplace Friendships: Who Needs Them?

Seriously. You NEED a friend at work.

Gallup is the think-tank leader when it comes to understanding businesses and human behavior. Gallup’s research is based on enormous samples sizes and Gallup has a 40+-year track record of tracking engagement at work. Gallup’s research related to having a best friend at work shows interesting and inspiring findings.

Gallup’s research shows that employees with a best friend at work:

  • are 7x more likely to be engaged;
  • are better at engaging customers;
  • produce higher quality work;
  • have higher well-being; and
  • are less likely to get injured on the job.

If you are like me, you may have thought – or still believe – it’s not necessary to have a bestie at work. This kind of thinking is becoming as outdated as a Rolodex or rotary phone. In case you need to fine tune your thinking about how friendships enhance the workplace, look no further than the recent issue (July-August, 2020) of Harvard Business Review (HBR).

Alison Beard, senior editor at HBR, synthesizes three recent books that delve into the power of friendships at work in her article “True Friends at Work: The Case for Making Deeper Connections with Colleagues.”  The authors of the three books reviewed by Beard (Social Chemistry, by Yale professor Marissa King, Together, by former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, and Friendship by sociologist Lydia Denworth) agree that creating meaningful friendships at work takes effort. Deep friendships will not instantaneously appear just because we show up to work. Like all things worth having, a best friend at work takes time, effort, and attention.

For instance, the time it takes to develop a friend is between 80 to 100 hours together. To claim someone as a “best” friend, it takes much longer – a whooping 200 hours. Like so many things, a good friendship cannot be rushed, so be patient with yourself and your workmates.

Other tips for sparking meaningful friendships at work include:

  • Candor and/or self-disclosure: Authentic friendships grow early roots when you are able to share your perspective with others.
  • Reciprocity: Be sure to help others. Don’t just be a taker. Give back. Did a colleague bring in a fresh banana bread to share? You don’t need to be a baker to reciprocate. Instead, make a stop at your local donut shop or muffin place one morning to show your appreciation.
  • Listen: Everyone needs a good ear. Talking too much at work (or anywhere) can be annoying. Make sure you really listen to your colleagues’ problems.
  • Ask for help: From my personal perspective, this is the toughest one of the bunch. It’s hard to ask for help at work. We want others to ask US for help. Not the other way around. Asking for help shows vulnerability (in a good way). It can also prompt sincere feelings including gratitude, kindness, and empathy.

Whether you are back in your physical workplace or working remotely, having a close friend at work can lead to a happier and more productive environment.


Want to more about creating a conducive environment for workplace friendships and a thriving team culture? Check out my book FRESH Leadership: 5 Skills to Transform You and Your Team.

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