Saturday, February 7, 2009

Friendships are predictors of workplace outcomes

Business Times p.B1
Saturday, February 07, 2009

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM
Friendships are predictors of workplace outcomes

According to studies made by Tom Rath and his team of researchers at Gallup Polls, employees with best friends are seven times more likely to be engaged in their job. Close friendships are best predictors of attendance, retention, satisfaction and strength of belief in a higher power. These studies indicate that the evolution and growth of friendships is a critical part of a healthy workplace. In the best workgroups they surveyed, employers recognize that people want to forge quality friendships and that company loyalty is built from such friendships.

This is one of their interesting findings: Having friends at work might even form a type of emotional compensation for those who are lacking other incentives. Closer friendships at work can increase satisfaction with your company and can double the chances of having a favorable perception of your pay. People with at least three close friends at work are more likely to be extremely satisfied with their life. Don't get me wrong, having one best friend at work makes a world of difference. This is the first major step if you want a more enjoyable workplace and personal life. But don't stop when you have one great friend on the job. Based on the results of our latest research, you could see a dramatic difference if you build a few more friendships at work.

Do you realize that as a leader of business, sports teams, schools, faith-based groups and other organizations that you are also in the business of cultivating friendships, other than accomplishing your organization's vision and mission? Or as the leader of your family, your responsibility is not just to provide for the basic needs of your family members but more importantly, to cultivate friendships in your family?

Tom wrote that "you increase your employees' loyalty to your organization by fostering the kind of loyalty that is built between one employee and another. The friendlier they are to one another, the more loyal they become to your organization. The best managers in the world are not only experts in systems, processes and technical competencies" they are experts in their employees' life. And because of this, they increase the engagement and productivity of their employees at work. All employees deserve a manager whom they can truly call a friend, or at least a manager who cares about their general well-being. The bottom line is that employees spend roughly 50 percent more time with their customers, coworkers and bosses than they do with our friends, significant others, children and other relatives combined. If you want to be happier and more engaged at work, consider developing a few strong friendships at the office, maybe even one with your boss.

Management guru Peter Drucker said, "managers learn in business school that relationships are either up or down, but the most important relationships today are sideways. If there is one thing that most of the people in management have to learn, it is how to handle relationships where there is no authority and no orders."

As a leader, what can you do to foster a culture of fellowship and camaraderie in your organization? These are some suggestions:
• Engage your employees at a more emotional level. Talk to them about your own personal vision and vision, your fears, dreams, what makes you happy and sad, your family, your likes and dislikes, your favorites, your pet peeves, etc.

• Encourage them to share with you and each other the same information. Be mindful, though, that some people will not easily open up. This process takes time. You can't just tell them your life story in one seating and hope that they get to know you, understand you and accept you as a friend just like that. Get to know them at a level deep enough to understand them and accept their uniqueness. And very important, remember the information shared. Baka naman every time you meet them, you ask for the same personal information. Talk to them about how they should care for each other and develop friendships.

• Keep a constant flow of communication moving throughout your organization. People don't always hear what they want to, but they appreciate hearing something.

• Provide space in your work area where they could meet and have casual conversations for short times e.g., pantry, water dispenser area, employee lounge and others.

• Set aside a budget for employee get together such as outing, party, sports activities and birthday celebrations.

• Encourage them to go out together after work hours.

• Buy and read Vital Friends and use the ideas of Tom Rath.


Moje is a management consultant on organizational and personal learning. Read her blog at and e-mail her at

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Friendships are not always reciprocal

Business Times, p.B1-2
Saturday, January 31, 2009

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, Fpm
Friendships are not always reciprocal

Shocked? Some of our friends give us guidance and motivation, while we do not. Our friends like us because we make them happy, but they do not know a single joke. Tom Rath wrote in his book, Vital Friends, that in some relationships, you and your friend will play the same roles for one another—but that is not the usual. You will have friends that play specific roles in your life while you play a different role in their life.

Here are the other vital roles our best friends forever (BFF) play in our life according to Tom. We discussed the first four roles last Saturday.

"Companions are always there for you, whatever the circumstances. You share a bond that is virtually unbreakable. When something big happens in your life—good or bad—this is one of the first people you call. At times, a true companion will even sense where you are hea­ded—your thoughts, feelings, and actions—before you know it yourself. They take pride in your relationship, and they will sacrifice for your benefit. They are the friends for whom you might literally put your life on the line. If you are searching for a friendship that can last a lifeline, look no further than a Companion.

"Connectors are bridge builders who help you get what you want. They get to know you—and then introduce you to others. These are the people you socialize with regularly. They are always inviting you to lunch, dinner, drinks, and other gatherings where you can meet new people. This extends your network dramatically and gives you access to newfound resources. When you need something—a job, a doctor, a friend, or a date—they point you in the right direction. They seem to "know everyone." If you need to get out more or simply want to widen your circle of friends or business associates, a connector can help.

"Mind Openers expand your horizons and encourage you to embrace new ideas, opportunities, cultures and people. They challenge you to think in innovative ways and help you create positive change. They know how to ask good questions, and this makes you more receptive to ideas. When you are around them, you are unguarded and express opinions aloud, especially controversial ones that you might not be comfortable sharing with other friends. They broaden your perspective on life and make you a better person. If you need to challenge the conventional wisdom or shake up the status quo, spend a few hours talking with a Mind Opener.

"Navigators give you advice and keep you headed in the right direction. You go to them when you need guidance and they talk through the pros and cons with you until you find an answer. In difficult situations, you need them by your side. They help you see a positive future while keeping things grounded in reality. Any time you're at a crossroads and need help making a decision, you can look to them. They help you know who you are—and who you are not. They are the ideal friends to share your goals and dreams with; when you do, you will continue to learn and grow. When you ask Navigators for direction, they help you reach your destination."

At work, there is one kind of friend you do not like to keep—your bellyache buddy. Your friendship with them is based on a mutual hatred for the boss or the management. Your conversations with this "friend" usually revolve around complaining and venting.

Tom said, "There are real risks when it comes to workplace friendships. A close friendship is inherently more complex than a superficial one. When people form tight-knit social groups at work, it can alienate others, who might become jealous and complain of cliques. And the closer two people get in the workplace, the more potential fallout if things go awry. The situation gets even more complicated when friendships turn romantic, especially if one party in the relationship is in a position of authority. However, according to recent studies, the potential upside of friendships on the job could dramatically outweigh the possible disadvantages.

"If you have a best friend at work, you are significantly more likely to engage your customers, get more done in less time, have fun on the job, have a safe workplace with fewer accidents, innovate and share new ideas, feel informed and know that your opinions count and have the opportunity to focus on your strengths each day."

This subject is getting more and more exciting. Let's revisit it next Saturday.

Moje is a management consultant on organizational and personal learning. Visit her blog at www.learningandinno or email her at innova