Bonding Over Work.

by Denise Berger

Do you have a close friend or group of friends in the office? You probably go to lunch together. You are LinkedIn and, not only you, but all your friends are tied together through Facebook. Almost daily you grab a coffee break at the same time. You share your hopes for your careers, your frustrations, what you hate about your boss, and what you admire. You begin to share your salary information; you talk about your families, your outside friends and interests and about love. Maybe you even cry on each other’s shoulder. You have been witness to each other’s weddings, perhaps the birth of children. And you catch yourself thinking sometimes, “How did I get so lucky to meet such a close friend at work- a total BFF!!! They are so hard to come by.”

 

Does it work to have a BFF at work? A Gallup poll in 2006 shows that, in fact, close friendships at work correlate with higher profitability, trust and higher customer engagement! BNet reported on a survey done by Accoutemps in 2007 that 63% of employees believe in a productivity increase when colleagues are friends. Wow! Don’t throw away that coffee pot and machine, or the water cooler, just yet… forming close relationships and being able to socialize during the work day with colleagues breed better results through a greater sense of belonging, shared goals, and improved communications. In 2007, the Business Ledger reported on a book citing that employees with close friends at work were seven times more likely to be engaged in the job.

 

But what about the common belief that personal life should be kept separate from professional life? In the same Accoutemps survey, executives apparently do not believe so much in the link between productivity and relationships, unless there is a direct correlation to NOI (net operating profit). And, unfortunately, not everyone has the best of intentions and the adage, “it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there,” still rings true. Some people believe that sharing salary information and letting someone into your life outside the office is, well, like mixing church with school - very taboo and threatening. We can almost look at this debate as a generational issue. Some argue that keeping the two lives separate came about in an era when people spent more of their time outside of the office connecting with neighbors and family. Nowadays people feel lonely and isolated if they do not bond and connect at work because it makes up more of the hours in a day than R&R outside the office. And certainly, Gen X created internet connectivity and Gen Yers are capitalizing on it – blogging and writing daily about seemingly minute activities and goings-on. This all serves to keep them well-connected with colleagues, both former and present, friends and family. Thus, they crave it and foster it and have become quite gifted at networking. So, while Gen Xers (born between 1966 and 1980) are still guarded about sharing personal information with colleagues, Gen Yers are opening those flood-gates amongst themselves, non-discriminately. Is that wise? Or is it that the rules of friendship and camaraderie, and the definition of what it means to be a colleague, are changing?

 

TheInspiredMom
02.17.09

I made some of my best friends at work. Now that I stay at home, I keep in close touch with these gals. They are part of the reason I want to go back to work in the next few years.

deceo
02.11.09

You can't help but forming great friendships at the early stages of your career. Think about it! You're all sitting on top of each other, listening to each other's conversations, getting to know one another's strengths, weaknesses, frustrations and accomplishments. You end up closer than with someone you room with in college - those spaces are bigger than the ones we sit in for the first 5 years of a job!!

penguinok
02.09.09

As a pre-generation x-er (yuk that makes me generation very old!!) I spent many years in offices around the world, including New York (one of the best cities in the world), post-communist eastern Europe and England.....I have firm and wonderful friends from each place (including you author!!)with whom I maintained professional close friendships at the time we worked together which have continued on now into my personal home mum and part time working life!! I couldn't have spent all those hours, may times late into the night (remember those Denise) working without my buddies...Am a strong believer in friends in the workplace! And I guess I've been lucky enough to choose wisely because that is definitely a good point!!

ivanonse
02.06.09

When we consider how much time we spend in an office, it does not surprise me that we make the friends we do. I have certainly had my share and have been very grateful for them. It is important to have work/life balance and it can be achieved, in part, by making friendships at work.

klkelley65
02.05.09

I still keep in touch with a few coworkers even thought we no longer work together. We've been friends for 14 years and will remain friends for life.

kmstevens
02.05.09

Although I have made quite a few close friends from work, my closest friends are the ones I have made in school...some back in grade school!

KLynch
02.05.09

I think it is great to have a buddy/buddies at work. It really makes dealing with all the 'work stuff' that much easer when you have someone you know and trust there with you.
I recently made a move to a new city, same company, but all new faces. Even though I am doing the same job, my work satisfaction has not been the same since making the move and I truly believe that is because I am missing my lunch buddies !

agorton
02.05.09

I've made some great friends through my work! Some I'll keep for life!

jenddavis
02.05.09

Some of my best friends I have made through work and as an on-ramper, am excited to create new friendships and comaradarie.