Do You Have A Best Friend At Work?

Does friendship at work matter, and what does it look and feel like?


Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend. – Albert Camus

A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out. – Walter Winchell

I’m heading to the Meaning Conference in Brighton this morning. I can only stay for a few hours and the two main reasons I’m going are: the anticipation of being provoked and challenged, and to catch up with friends.

Do you have a best friend at work? So asks question number 10 of the famous (or infamous depending on your point of view) Gallup 12. Gallup go so far as to stay that when it comes to ’employee engagement’ their questions are the only questions you need. Seeing as their question set doesn’t include ‘How much do you love cake?’, I don’t agree with their assertion, but I do like question number 10.

I know people who like to snigger at this notion of friendship at work, and I also know from my own experience that the people I consider friends, are the ones who I enjoy spending time with, and who I can be of use to, at least some of the time. I know from the work I do that people who can develop a sense of friendship, and of getting to know one another better, do better work together. Yet somehow the notion of friendship at work is something that we often don’t readily compute. I can relate to that, and often when I’m struggling to apply something which feels unfamiliar to its surroundings, I first try and think of it in a more ‘natural’ state.

I recently joined a new cycling club, and the club gets a few requests to respond to the media about our interests in the sport. Over the weekend I was asked to consider and briefly write about the benefits of being a member of a cycling club for a feature on a sports website. Here’s the essence of what I submitted:

The people I rode with on Saturday think a good cycling club should be an encouraging place to be, and it should be a nurturing place to be. For example – when we are out for a ride, we regroup often, to wait for the slowest group member, we don’t leave people behind.

Variety is important, so we try and encourage different people to lead rides to different places. We have a few members in our club with an excellent knowledge of great places to ride, so we perhaps are a little spoiled for choice, but we think there’s nothing more boring than cycling to and from the same place every week – so mix it up.

We enjoy a lot of laughs when we’re out together – our sense of humour isn’t for everyone but we think spending time together should be good fun, so don’t take yourselves too seriously.

These brief thoughts – by themselves they aren’t the magic ingredients for great work. Unlike Gallup I don’t profess to have found the answer, or even twelve answers for that matter – and if there is such a thing as culture at work, I think it would be helpful if it were nurturing, varied and fun – among other things. How about you?

photo credit : Jlhopgood

Author: Doug Shaw

Artist and Consultant. Embracing uncertainty, sketching myself into existence. Helping people do things differently, through an artistic lens.

2 thoughts on “Do You Have A Best Friend At Work?”

  1. Bike clubs are a great place to think about culture. It’s all volunteer so, unlike a business, although there are people “in charge” no one is really the boss or can formally dictate how others behave. Yet, different clubs have very distinct ways of doing things. I’ve ridden with two different clubs and they both consisted of people of all skill and fitness levels who like to ride bikes. On the surface they were essentially the same. Yet… One club I rode with was welcoming, inclusive, tolerant of newbie mistakes, and very encouraging. The other had a very strong vibe of being unwelcoming, exclusive, and too cool for itself. One club I rode with for several years, the other I made it several rides before going my own way. Based on that experience (and others) I would hazard that the worse a culture is, the more important having a friend at work is to engagement.

  2. Hi Broc – sorry it has taken me so long to reply. A network held together by things other than pay is an interesting place in terms of culture. In the case of the club I left, it was stuck in a rut – anything beyond the routine just didn’t thrive. It wasn’t always like that but a previous captain focused purely on membership growth and used the predictability of an identical route, week in week out – to attract people. It worked – up to a point. The club grew then stabilised, and plenty of people left too, he was a notorious bully and would sometimes behave in a completely obnoxious fashion in public towards people. The committee at the time was weak and so the the elephant in the room was never dealt with. Importantly – when you are looking for a place to call home for your leisure activities, it is about finding a place that works for you, and being comfortable that what works now – may not work forever.

    Cheers – Doug

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