There’s a question that appears on those surveys that are regularly carried out among staff in large organisations, like one I used to work for. The surveys aim to “take the temperature of staff” and see what staff really think about their work. The question I’m talking about is the one that staff complain the most about having to answer.
“Do you have a best friend at work?”
No further direction is given, debates ensue in meetings over whether they mean a “work friend” (i.e. someone to bitch to about work stuff) or a real life friend. Debates are had over what “best” means. Is it “best” as in better than every other friends, or “best at work” which means you’ve more than one at work. Gallup, who came up with the question, have explained why it’s so important here. I hate the question, I hate the intrusion into my personal life. I will happily answer “In the last six months has someone at work talked to you about your progress?” or divulge whether “The mission of the company makes me feel my job is important”, but back away from my relationships anonymous survey.
But I’ve been thinking about work friends, and work best friends. They’re important. So, so important.
Good work friends make work bearable on the bad days. Colleagues don’t they’re just there. Work friends, work best friends, are different. They text you after work to check you’re OK. When you’re having a wobble about leaving a sick child there’s a friend who’s been there and reassures you that it’s going to be OK. When you want to rant about something, there’s someone to listen over a cuppa or lunch. When you need help on a work thing, or need to ask a stupid question, there’s someone you can ask who doesn’t judge. You can get directed around the office politics. When you need to get fresh air there’s a friend to walk around the block with at lunchtime. In olden times (aka pre-kids and commute) there was someone to go for “just the one” with after a bad day and end up in a nightclub on a Wednesday night. Friends, real friends.
I left college in 1998, and have worked in several offices since then. Different offices with similar desks, similar broken chairs, staplers that disappear and varying degrees of technology. I’ve had different work friends too, ones I’ve gone out drinking with, ones who’ve planned my wedding with me, ones who’ve lived every day of my pregnancies with me.
I’ve just left a work family and work friends who I’ve spent the last four years with. This work family shared my last pregnancy with daily (nay, hourly) updates, my kids’ birthdays, and major life events.
Some I’ll drift apart from, but my “best friends at work” are different. We’ll stay in touch, I have with the others from older workplaces.We’ll meet for pints or more likely playdates these days. We’ll still stay in touch on Facebook and WhatsApp and all that good stuff.
Because a real “best friend at work” is a real friend. They make work life easier. They are the reason you miss a workplace, the reason that people stay.
I see what Gallup are getting at now. But I still don’t like the question.