Speaking to one of my cousins recently, I was reminded of the importance of good working relationships.

No, more than that – of having someone at work you consider to be a friend.

I realise that for some work and friendship might feel oxymoronic, and I’m aware that whenever I’ve introduced people to Gallup’s Q12 Survey, the response of “I have a best friend of work” cited as a reason for employee engagement doesn’t always go down well, and is often misinterpreted, but . . .

We’re not talking about work friendships that compromise working relationships; or inappropriate friendships that might lead to nepotism or make performance management difficult; or an over-familiarity that challenges decision-making or integrity.

In my cousin’s case, she was talking of a genuine friendship, formed over several years of working with a colleague . . . and one which has led to an out-of-work, social acquaintance that involves them spending days out together, and genuinely being good friends.  In fact, it’s a friendship so strong that she expressed her sadness that this particular colleague might be moving on to another job (needs must etc).  I’m guessing that many of us know what this type of friendship feels like.

Personally, I am grateful for the friends I have made at work.  Some of them are peers, some of them started as people I managed, others have been my boss.  No friendship has ever interfered with the working relationship we were supposed to have; and the support and genuine care I’ve had from those friends has been something I’ll always be grateful for.  And hanging on to their friendship when one of us has moved on and we’re no longer part of the same organisation, is something I’m proud of.

And the benefit for the workplace?  Kevin Kruse, writing for Forbes in 2015, sums it up:

“Top performing teams are ones where social bonds are strong, and the power of friendship and engagement cannot be denied.”

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