Friendships at work – A window to people culture at organizations
Generally, friendship and work/career aren’t exactly the words which mingle together and that’s exactly what intrigued me to explore if they are friends together. The next thing I imagine is to see Jay and Viru working together in the same company. Of course, we worry about stealing them few stationary items but for sure they will “play their roles” to inspire an organization to conquer Gabber!
Every second organization in the world claims that “people” are their most important asset but very rarely have we seen “friendship” mentioned in any of their corporate pitches. Of course, it’s about setting boundaries between life and work and with the virtual world, we have also seen an integration of work and life. So here’s my earnest attempt to explore if work and friendship are friends together.
- New to the office – buddy comes to rescue: Having a buddy on the first day for a new employee becomes a key support system for him/her. This “friend” AKA buddy helps him/her to navigate through uncertain waters in the first few days while getting introduced to a new world. Buddy is the first real experience of the kind of people a new employee is about to work with.
- Boss as a friend?: Of course, you don’t want to be “friends” with your boss right away; although empathy, freedom, trust and confidence are those critical attributes to the relationship between boss and employee. Over the period it builds a successful platform for a new employee to perform.
- Peer Relationships: This is where culture eats strategy for breakfast! Oh sorry, I used an overused jargon but bear with me. Although, even simple things like inviting a new employee for breakfast/lunch is a starting point for many to build friendships at work. If your culture encourages collaboration, team-work etc in reality – it helps the employee to build a sense of belonging and find his/her herd! We’ve seen many such groups still connected even if their projects/companies changed over time. I am sure many folks have their WhatsApp groups of past companies.
People who have best friends at work are seven times likely to be engaged and productive at work – Gallup Report.
Impact on Learning & Growth: The birds of the same feather flock together! Friends at work who share similar interests & passion help each other to push for excellence, innovate and learn for their growth. More importantly, they take care of each other in day to day work, very similar to friends in college/universities. This is where the litmus test of company values, leadership and culture happens if they inject the right amount of openness, environment & freedom to make this happen. It’s a productivity gain!
Friends, Fun is important: One of the most memorable moments for anyone in the company is the amount of fun they had with their colleagues. The friendships at work create this magical portion for people to put the spell of joy, happiness & sense of belonging within the team. People may not remember all the projects they have worked on but they will always cherish joyful and fun moments they had with their colleagues. This is a pot of joy people take-away to their homes when they leave the company.
Informal Conversations at Cooler, Coffee Machine: Or even all-important “Sutta breaks” allow people to foster informal conversations to explore all kinds of conversations which helps them to become friends over time. This is a comfort/no-judgement place for sharing their concerns, frustrations, success stories or even social updates like sports, politics etc. These conversations in between two formal meetings, help people to build personal rapports & connections.
Mental Stress & Well Being: Working alone and being lonely are two different things. You can work alone but you still want to be part of the team. Having informal relationships helps everyone to share their feelings, bounce off ideas and more importantly ask for help whenever needed. In the era where battling mental pressures & well being is important, no one wants to be left alone which hampers their productivity and engagement. Having friends at work helps you to not carry forward pressures at work to your home. The friend circle at home helps you to calm down your anxiety, anger or any negativity.
People connected together due to a common sense of purpose is a great example of having a community of friends who follow their heart.
The Risk Factors: Is there a flip side of having friends at work? There is a list of such factors which includes mixing professional/personal lives, jealousy, distrust, starting a rat-race, gossips etc. It also may impact retention & create frictions between individuals hampering their growth & delivery. Honestly, these risk factors exist for any person's relationships and “part and parcel of the game”. A great leader will be able to sense these risks and pacify them in the long run for minimum damage.
Having friends at work is a great reflection of the importance of people, culture and relationships for any organization. My best friend and I started my career with the same company and I have so many friends from my work which are more than ex-colleagues now. We spend a big part of our lives at work and thus it is pretty normal to have friends at work. In all honesty, it’s one of the great features of people-driven culture and ultimately company. Friends help each other to make working together fun, bearable & productive.
You may say – this is all great in theory. How do we know, measure & understand if “friendship at work” is working for companies?
- Alumni Groups: You will find the Alumni groups are buzzing with conversations, engagement & meetups. It’s a sign that people have carry-forwarded their relationships beyond the company.
- Internal Surveys/Glassdoor: If you do internal surveys and leverage employee sentiments – you will find mentions of peer relationships and great people as a reason to join and stay in the company.
- Organization Network Analysis: Companies with great people culture & friendships will have many people working as nodes/connecting dots across various parts of the organization. It’s a glue which holds people across teams together without any hierarchy.
- Social Media: You will automatically notice many team members sharing group photos, how they have fun together along with employees openly talking about their amazing bonding at work. Check out #FriendsAtCapgemini
- Employee Referrals: If people believe in company culture, they will want to bring in their friends at work. Number of employee referrals and hires through this channel can be a great measure. As you know, ER is one of the cheapest and most successful hiring sources across the world. People hired through ER tend to stay more.
- Communication channels: If your company promotes collaboration and engagement across teams/countries – number of skype/MS Teams/Zoom calls in the company can be a good indicator. It shows that more people are connecting over and beyond regular work.
Many of the great companies were once started by friends together. Although the friendship at work may mean little different from personal friendship – the essence & core remains the same to promote collaboration, engagement, growth & ultimately retention. People build companies and companies build people – if it happens together, there you see the magic! So this Friendships day, let’s also think about friendships at work and celebrate them. Comment below to tag your friends at work and share this article with them!
Special shoutout to FilterCopy who have made tonnes of amazing videos on this topic. Office wali Friendship, Office BFF, Friends work from home etc. (No it’s not a paid mention but I genuinely enjoy their videos)
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