I’m going to pose a question that is among the most controversial Gallup has asked in 30 years of employee engagement research:
“Do you have a best friend at work?”
When one of my Gallup colleagues first told me that the best friend item tended to elicit the strongest response from clients, I was surprised — it seems like a clear-cut question without much basis for debate.
While I’m not alone in this thinking, I’ve learned that there are people who see a clear dividing line between work and home life. They may be friendly with their coworkers, but they don’t consider them to be friends and certainly not best friends. I’ve also had my share of encounters with leaders and managers who expect their employees to leave their humanness at the door. They frown at chitchat and shared lunch breaks, and they view friendship as detrimental to productivity.
Typically, it’s this group of leaders and managers who have the strongest reaction to the best friend item. Their reactions are varied — some might chuckle or bristle at the language, while others may push back on the relevance of the item.
So, why does Gallup ask the best friend question?
The simple answer is performance. Our research has repeatedly shown a concrete link between having a best friend at work and the amount of effort employees expend in their job. For example, women who strongly agree they have a best friend at work are more than twice as likely to be engaged (63%) compared with the women who say otherwise (29%).