Who is your work best friend (BFF)? Do you really need one?
To my BFF at work,
I recall being at a conference around 1999 and hearing a discussion about the increase in employee satisfaction when they had a “best” friend at work. According to a study by Gallup “Human beings are social animals, and work is a social institution. Long-term relationships are often formed at work — networking relationships, friendships, even marriages. In fact, if you did not meet your spouse in college, chances are you met him or her at work. The evolution of quality relationships is very normal and an important part of a healthy workplace. In the best workplaces, employers recognize that people want to forge quality relationships with their coworkers, and that company allegiance can be built from such relationships”.
I recently started thinking about “best friends” when I realized a lot of people I had worked with for many years had or were retiring, or simply changing mandates. I was having less contact with the usual suspects as frequently inside the workday and in the off-hours of my life and I could feel a little more stress in my day. Things were changing around me consistently and I found myself wondering how many people had a true best friend at work. I saw that many teams had incredible camaraderie with one another and looked like they were really engaged versus a more formal way others interacted and got the job done.
I wondered how much mobility in the workplace while allowing us incredible flexibility to work where it is most convenient or simply where it is best suited to the task at hand was also causing some people to feel more isolated from opening up to new relationships or consider the benefits of a work BFF.
Did people realize the need for a workplace “best” friend and the satisfaction it could bring? Both inside and outside the workplace.
So, I started with me and asked “do you have a workplace BFF yourself?”
How can I really know the answer without asking the person, “Are you my BFF?” So I decided to create a Work BFF test and wrote this checklist of what workplace bestie would be:
- They listen to what’s bothering you and give you honest advice. They make your “problem” theirs and then they share what’s bothering them. You give them your honest advice. It’s reciprocal.
- They celebrate your successes and you celebrate theirs.
- They talk about their personal lives with you and you feel like you know their family and actually care about the things that matter to them and they do the same with you.
- You look forward to seeing them and you feel more engaged.
- You are vulnerable with them and take the risk of letting them in.
AND THEN YOU REALIZE …you are NOT work-BFFs but BFFs that work together
Although this checklist may seem more like an “ideal partner in life” list, it is in fact validated as work BFF appropriate too. (But no wonder Gallup discovered so many of these highly functional relationships lead to both long-term increased employee engagement with their company, but also long term relationships in general outside of work!”) *and you can also validate this by reading ‘The best place to work: the art and science of creating an extraordinary workplace’ by Ron Friedman Ph.D., (2014) these characteristics appear to be exactly what a work BFF is all about.
Given many of us believe that work and personal lives should remain separated and we keep social media platforms separate using Facebook as an open forum for co-workers and external friends, and then choose to have a private Instagram account, for example, I wondered “How can we bring our authentic selves to work when we are compartmentalizing ourselves so purposefully”? How can we look for that wonderful best friend that can help us be happier in the workplace and more engaged?
So I took my own test.
And I realized two things.
- I have this BFF that I’ve realized isn’t my work BFF but my BFF that I work with, (that means I answered #6 a firm YES) and I am truly grateful. I hope they read this and know that they have been my game changer lately and I feel very lucky.
- None of my social media is private.