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Today’s Corporate Dossier – the supplement that comes with The Economic Times – carries an article titled “Terms Of Engagement” written by Tom Rath, who leads Gallup’s Workplace Research and Leadership Consulting worldwide. “Terms Of Engagement” talks about the significance of having a best friend or two at your workplace. I found this article to be very relevant in today’s corporate life and I must say I have been very lucky in this aspect. Some of my best friends from school and college have also been my colleagues at work. And they have been hugely responsible for making corporate life an experience to cherish.
G, Sa, and Sh – this post is dedicated to you guys.
Tom Rath, has recently authored Vital Friends, a book that focuses on this key parameter of corporate life. In it, Rath looks at eight vital roles that friends play:
- Builders (those who motivate you to achieve more)
- Champions (those loyalists who stand up for you)
- Collaborators (those with similar interests)
- Companion (those classic friends who you call first with your news)
- Connectors (those who introduce you to others)
- Energisers (those who give you a boost when you’re down)
- Mind-openers (those who expand your horizons)
- Navigators (those who you go to for advice)
G you are the Champion and Companion. Sa you are the Collaborator and Energiser. Sh you are the Mind-opener, Builder, and Navigator. I hope you guys agree. :-)
Tom also answers few questions (reproduced below). My comments (if any) follow.
Why has Gallup’s question on workplace friendships been so controversial?
The problem was mainly with senior executives. Even the watered down version of ‘do you have a friend at work’, seemed to raise hackles there. They didn’t like to be asked that question and some even said they didn’t want employees to have a best friend at work. On the other hand, younger people — computer programmers, those on the shop floor thought it was an important issue. Age does have something to do with it. In the initial stages of their career, fresh out of college, people are used to spending 40% of their time with friends. But this goes down to 10% or less later on. As people move up through the ranks, they tend to isolate themselves within their own small area. At the top level, they have to compete with their peers and this creates tensions. Workplace friendships are not the best maintained. They tend to come and go.
[My comments] I have actually seen managers who frowned upon workplace friendship. The common line of argument was that workplace friendship directly led to “loafing during work hours.” True, there is a certain amount of loafing, but the benefits on the other side of the coin are immeasurable.
Then why are friendships at work so important?
Friendships come and go, but they’re still important while they’re there. It’s especially important while inducting new people. Organisations need to help employees build friendships in the first six months. Without a best friend at work, the chances of you being engaged in your job are 1 in 12. Our research suggests that people without a friend at work all but eliminate their chances of being engaged during the workday. But overall, just 30% of the employees we’ve surveyed report having a best friend at work, and only 20% dedicate time to developing friendships on the job. Friendships are vital to happiness and achievement on the job, but individuals and organisations are still falling short.
In today’s job-changing environment, what happens when friends leave?
If you have one friend and that person leaves, there’s bound to be a dramatic drop in engagement levels. Which is why it’s best to have at least three good friends at the workplace. Most companies spend their time thinking about how to increase employees’ loyalty to their organisation. They might, instead, try fostering loyalty between employees. We’ve found that close friendships are one of the best predictors of attendance, retention and satisfaction.
[My comments] I was, at first, devastated when Sa quit and when G was simultaneously planning to quit. I just could not imagine the workplace without these guys. I looked forward to each work-day just because my best friends were around. Close friendship is most certainly a predictor of retention and satisfaction. I am not so sure about attendance though.
Are best friends usually in the same team at work?
Well, in my team at Gallup, the three closest friends I have are in New York, LA and Lincoln. We spend a lot of time e-mailing each other on the movies we’ve seen and stuff like that. Physical proximity is no longer an issue these days. Proximity matters at the time of forming friendships, but not necessarily in maintaining them.
[My comments] G, Sa, Sh, and I, have often worked out of different locations and on different projects. Sometimes its best to have a distance.
What’s your take on friends who go into business together?
When people have a connection, the speed at which you can innovate and be creative increases. You often have the same ideas. Getting to know someone takes a lot of time. In business partnerships it can take up 75% of the time, so if you already know someone well, it becomes that much easier.
[My comments] I do agree with Tom’s thinking, but personally, I have always believed that money-matters and best friends should not be allowed to mingle. Money changes a lot of things (including your personality, whether you like it or not) and it’s best to keep it out of a best-friend-relationship.
What do you think?
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