Should You Have a Best Friend at Work?

two business professional best friends at work talk about a current project together

Many years ago, the Gallup Organization published research showing that people who had a “best friend” at work tended to be happier and more effective, plus they stayed with their companies longer. Encouraging people to build relationships at work is good for workers and good for the company.

Positive professional relationships enrich your career and make your job more fun. As a sales professional, you’re more likely to exceed your quota when you have a supportive group of people behind you. You’re more effective when you don’t get a stomach ache every Sunday night thinking about the coming work week.

Now that we have lived through the pandemic and entered the era of remote work, how relevant is the “best-friend-at-work” imperative? Well, as it turns out, it’s even more relevant than it used to be. Recent Gallup data show that having a “best friend” at work has become more important since the start of the pandemic, even considering the increase in remote and hybrid work.

But there’s a group of professionals that is vulnerable to missing out on this very important work-life benefit: Gen Z.

In this week’s Wall Street Journal article, “What Gen Z Will Lose if They Don’t Have Friendships at Work,” Jeffrey Hall writes about his research into the role of friendships at work. He and his colleagues surveyed 4,300 adults, asking them to identify up to seven friends. Among all the locations where people met these friends, work (16.1%) was second only to school (20.3).

As you get older, work replaces school as a primary source of friendship, Hall writes. People who were 51 years or older were twice as likely to have met at least one of their friends at work (44%) than people under 30 (21%).

“Having a close friend at work has well-established benefits for both careers and well-being. Working people are less lonely and socially isolated than those who aren’t working. At the same time, close friendships—wherever they form—boost happiness and life satisfaction. Around the office, workplace friends are advocates, mentors and confidants—a second set of eyes and ears. A friend at work is a source of support,” writes Hall, who is a professor of communication studies at the University of Kansas.

Of all age groups, young adults are the most likely to feel loneliness. That’s because of the series of changes that tend to happen at that point of your life. Given that many people are working remotely and that people move jobs so quickly (partly because unemployment remains so low), Gen Zers run a higher risk of social detachment than older workers. That could affect no only their happiness but also their productivity.

What does all this mean for sales pros regardless of age or life circumstances?

It depends. You could make an argument that sales pros have long been less attached than other workers. Sales pros are more likely to work independently – especially those who reside in a different geographic territory. Outside sales reps sometimes spend the entire work day outside the office meeting with clients.

Because of remote work, a significant percentage of inside sales reps now work from home. Instead of pounding the phones inside an office building, they do it in the quiet of their homes. That comes with pros and cons.

If you work remotely or are constantly out in the field, how do you build relationships with your colleagues?

Virtual workers and out-of-the-office sales reps need to be proactive and take chances. Having a relationship-building mindset is helpful:

  1. To start, produce high-quality work, be timely and reliable
  2. Practice the same positive interpersonal communication techniques you would use if you were physically present with a colleague
  3. Remember that all people deserve respect and are worth of your time/attention. Be appreciative.
  4. Share personal (but appropriate) things and use stories/humor.
  5. Find excuses to meet face-to-face with colleagues either for work projects or after-work socializing.
  6. Even though you’re busy or might prefer to do something else, show up at your company’s in-person events and have a positive attitude.
  7. If you work in a remote territory or different city, you might want to add an extra day when you come back to the mother ship in order to spend time with colleagues.

Relationship building is an important effort worthy of your time and energy. If you’re successful at sales, it’s probably because you work hard and have amassed skills and experience over the years. For most sales pros, success is the result of deliberate effort. If healthy work relationships are good for sales success, then it makes sense to be deliberate in those relationships.

Jeff Beals helps you find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share. He is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant. He delivers compelling speeches and sales-training workshops worldwide. He has spoken in 5 countries and 41 states. A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.

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