In Praise of Work Friends
It started on Saturdays when I was a motel maid. Our tight-lipped supervisor would depart after lunch which freed us to play at our labors. Cynthia and I would make a beeline for each other to join forces and clean our combined list of rooms. We’d flip on the TV and dance to American Bandstand and Soul Train as we made beds and scrubbed bathrooms. We frolicked and finished our work in record time with no one the wiser that we’d broken the ridiculous rule to work separately. At the age of nineteen, I had stumbled onto an enduring pattern for my career—when I’m having fun on the job with a buddy, I’m productive and the time flies.
At the mention of work friends, no doubt there are faces that come to mind. These are the folks you look forward to seeing, with whom you share the tidbits you’ve saved over a weekend or break. You miss them when they’re on vacation and relish a laugh or discussion about a common interest. In short, their presence enhances the quality of your work life.
The Gallup Survey has (for decades now) found that having a best friend at work is among the top ten factors that make a great workplace. For you, it may not be one person, there may be many—or maybe just a few. Sine we are social beings, relationships matter to our happiness. How your days are brightened by a companion may be very different from that which brings me joy. Personally, I love wit and playfulness, someone who can banter and engage in being silly without being overly self-conscious. (Blame it on improvisational theater where I learned to trade looking good for being delighted.) You may bond with those who have the same passion you have for golf or knitting or reading or dogs. Or maybe it’s someone who will listen to you unconditionally as you do for them. Unfortunately, friendships can produce a shadow side in the form of cliques or jealousies, but we’re not going there today—let’s just sing the praises of those who make us smile.
As much as I love playing, my work buddies and I have known when to turn off the goofy and get down to business. I believe the free flow of our banter enhanced creative problem solving. This in turn engendered mutual trust in each other’s judgment and expertise. A win for the organization, not just us.
As vital as they are, we don’t typically tell our work comrades we love them because, well, that would be loaded and a bit weird. However, I’m certain that when there’s mutual enjoyment there’s also an acknowledgment of the significance of the relationship. Whether this person becomes a friend outside of work is not assured. There have been times I’ve truly appreciated a coworker, however when our shared employment ended, the connection was severed.
Recently, I lost an important work friend to cancer. I am fortunate that ours was of an enduring nature beyond the walls of the company. We never spoke about how important we were to each other; we didn’t need to.
You know who your work buddies are. Make and take the time to enjoy them. I believe these bonds add to both the quality of work life and to the work itself. And that’s a tremendous payoff.