Millennials are famously known for blurring the lines between the professional and the personal, and that extends to having friendships at work. While that tendency may clash with previous generations who prefer to keep their heads down and not share too much at work, research shows that having a best friend at work may be one of the best things you can do for your career (assuming you can find someone who's a match).
What the research says
"Gallup, one of the biggest organizations that studies workplace culture, uses its Q12 measurement tool to gauge "the twelve key dimensions that describe great workgroups" — essentially, how effectively companies are engaging their employees. One of the most-talked-about question is item number 10: "I Have a Best Friend at Work." According to Gallup, this is one of their most controversial questions, but it's also one of the most powerful ways to differentiate highly productive workgroups. As it turns out, employees who have a work BFF were:
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Why your work BFF is important
It turns out that having a work BFF has a bunch of benefits:
Friends have increased trust
According to Stephen M. R. Covey's book The Speed of Trust, when trust goes down, both costs and inefficiencies increase. In today's environment of constant change — mergers & acquisitions, reorgs, steady turnover (something else work friendships help reduce) — a work BFF could offer employees the best defense against stress, isolation and disengagement.
Acquaintances have worse communication
Research shows that acquaintances who work on projects together prefer to work alone & communicate only when necessary. Acquaintances are also less likely that friends to ask for help or point out mistakes.
Better feedback when things get off track
If you're friends with a co-worker, defensiveness often takes a back seat. We're more likely to accept and act on constructive criticism from people we like and trust — Pam is much more likely to let Jim know that he left out a bullet point on an important client presentation if they have a solid working friendship.
More committed team members
An organization's success or failure is closely related to the motivation of its employees, and employee motivation is directly related to job commitment. Often it feels like there's more on the line with friendships (as opposed to customers). If you know that your lack of motivation or commitment is going to negatively affect your friends, you're much less likely to drop the ball.
Encouragement is a natural byproduct of employees who also happen to be friends — we want the people we like and trust to succeed. Our friends who help move us forward when we feel fear, isolation and overwhelm.
It's clear that our work BFFs do more than just save a spot for us in the breakroom or let us borrow their staplers — they cover for us when family emergencies strike, and offer a sympathetic ear when we falter. Work best friends can make the difference between a job you hate — and a job that you're willing to invest in.
Want to help your team find their own work BFF?
A high-tech scavenger hunt might be just the thing!
Co-founder Jill Hinton Wolfe is a communicator, entrepreneur and Army veteran who is passionate about designing surprising and unique experiences for her clients.