[Part 10 of a 12 part series exploring the concepts in 12: The Elements of Great Managing, Wagner and Harter, Gallup Press, 2006.]
[Updated 12Mar07, 1030 am CST - corrected the spelling of Friend in the title.]
This is the one that bugs most people. "I have a best friend at work." How can that have anything to do with business success? In fact, won't that get in the way of success?
Not from the work Gallup has done. In fact, the Gallup folks would long ago have deleted this question from their engagement surveys but for one thing - it predicts business results.
On page 150, Keshavanand Prabhu says, "I know that I'm not going to be left alone and I'm not going to be blamed if anything goes wrong, because I will always have somebody to help me out, to take me out of the water if anything is wrong."
It's that level of trust that explains Gallup's findings that having a best friend at work can help drive business success.
Gallup's data show that close friendships at work correlate with higher profitability, lower accident rates, less inventory loss (shrink), higher customer engagement, and happier folks. The statement, "I have a best friend at work," seems to measure trust. And trust seems to be a key component of high engagement workplaces.
The authors tell the story of Dr. Suresh Nagesh, who turned a group of six unhappy engineers into a high power team that routinely exceeds expectations. He did it mainly by paying attention to interactions between team members, and creating an environment that fostered friendship.
Friendships at work work. So, how do you "make" people like each other?
Well, you don't. You can't. But you can create conditions favorable for friendships to form. Last August, in my review of Tom Rath's Vital Friends, I suggested the following actions to build the sort of environment that will nurture friendships:
Eliminate policies that discourage friendship.
Lighten up and relax - realize that friendship is your friend, not your enemy.
Work with your team to eliminate the barriers to interaction. For example, at a company I worked with a while back, we all had our own offices. And we kept our doors closed much of the time. The only places we encountered each other were in formal meetings, at the copy/coffee machines, and in the restroom. Not very conducive to friendship. We decided to tear down the walls and create an open plan office. (I know, I know, open plan offices are so 1995.) But it worked. We designed the space together, and developed guidelines to keep disturbance to a minimum. And we got to know - and like - each other. In our case, tearing down the literal walls helped tear down the figurative walls.
Provide opportunities for conversations to start - volunteering in the community as a team, for example.
Take care how you bring new employees on board. Make them part of the family from Day One.
Keep Aristotle's thoughts in mind, though: "Wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is slow-ripening fruit." You won't decide tomorrow to foster friendships at work, and have a batch of "best friends" running around by Friday. But you already knew that. Most of what's good in leadership takes time.
[Quote found on ThinkExist.com.]
[Photo from Microsoft's ClipArt page.]