My good friend and colleague, Rebecca Schultzberg, and I gave a talk last week to the Massachusetts Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals on the power of connections and friendships at work.
Having good, strong connections to your colleagues and your network not only benefits you professionally, it can also make a difference to your long-term health and well-being. In addition, strong friendships among colleagues can have big impacts on your organization.
Let’s look at some data:
According to a 2018 report from Silk Road, 54% of total hires were from referrals. People were hired because they were referred to the job by someone they knew. That’s one reason that strong networks are valuable in your career. It’s through those connections that you can find new opportunities, including your next job. This data also suggests that having a strong network can help when you’re in a position to hire, whether that’s growing your team or filling vacancies. Chances are there’s someone you know who knows someone who could be a great fit for the job.
A report published by Gallup in 2022 showed that friendships at work also have an impact on job satisfaction and retention. They showed that 44% of people who have a best friend at work consider their organization a great place to work, compared to only 21% of those who don’t. Similarly, 32% of people with a best friend at work say they are “extremely satisfied” with their organization, compared to only 15% of people who don’t.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Minnesota, quoted in the book Blind Spot, also published by Gallup, say that friendships at work also foster productivity. Here’s what they say about why:
“Friends, were more committed at the start of a project, showed better communication while doing the activity and offered their teammates positive encouragement along every step of the way. They also evaluated ideas more critically and gave one another feedback when they were off course.”
– Blind Spot: The Global Rise of Unhappiness and How Leaders Missed It by Jon Clifton
If you’re a manager, promoting good relationships on your team can go a long way toward helping people feel engaged and to doing better work together. And for you, individually, having stronger relationships with your colleagues will enhance your day-to-day experience.
Here are some ideas you can try (with alternatives for hybrid or virtual settings):
Put your phone away. If you work in an office, put your phone down while you’re waiting in line for lunch and strike up a conversation with the people around you. One of my best friends is someone I met in business school while waiting to buy our books. I often wonder if we would have known each other if we’d met in the era of the phone gaze. Be sure to also put your phone away if someone walks in while you’re making coffee, or grabbing a snack, or making copies. Take a moment to say hello and build a connection with your colleague.
Invite your colleagues to have lunch together. If you do your work in person, this is straightforward. But even if you work remotely, you can plan a “virtual lunch” as a time for social connection. The same goes for grabbing coffee together – or having “virtual coffee.”
Invite someone to go for a walk with you. Again, relatively easy in person. For those who work virtually, you could set this up as a phone call. Pop in your earbuds and chat while you get some fresh air.
Take a few minutes at the beginning of your team meetings to do an ice breaker. Invite everyone to share something they enjoy doing outside of work, or favorite food, or a favorite memory. For online meetings, you could invite team members to share a picture of someone important to them. There are hundreds more ideas online, and they only take a few minutes. If your team is large, or you suspect some might be uncomfortable talking in front of everyone, you could do this in pairs or small breakout groups.
Celebrate together. During our talk, Rebecca shared that her team does this at the start of every team meeting. They look back over the past week and everyone shares a win – something they accomplished or that went well. Doing this frequently helps people learn to notice and acknowledge their progress, which can be energizing. And it builds camaraderie as people congratulation one another on their successes.
As a manager, one of the most important things you can do to foster relationships in the workplace is to make sure people have time for them. If your team is under pressure, these kinds of activities will only add to their stress. So, the first step is to ensure that priorities are clear and that the team is resourced for the amount of work they’re being asked to do. Creating that kind of balance is crucial for long-term productivity and for your ability to retain – and even hire – staff.
If you’re reading these ideas and thinking, “There isn’t really anyone at work that I even want to be friends with,” that may be a sign that your workplace isn’t a good fit for you. Chances are the culture isn’t the kind of environment you want to be in. If that’s the case for you, then it’s probably time to move on.
If you’d like to feel happier and more satisfied in your work – whether at your current job or elsewhere – my team and I would love to help. We’ve set aside time to talk with you about your situation and identify next steps you can take. Book a call with us today at zmcoach.com/apply.
Here’s a video if you prefer to watch and listen to me talk about this topic: