Terms of Engagement

Terms of Engagement

 TOP CORPORATE executives weren''t too pleased when The Gallup Organization first started using friendships as one of 12 key measures of employee engagement. Do you have a best friend at work? What a childish question, they said. But Gallup persisted, and after conducting its Q12 survey among 4.5 million employees working with 332 clients in 112 countries, it has indeed established a correlation between "having a best friend at work" and levels of employee satisfaction, productivity and retention.

Tom Rath, who leads Gallup''s Workplace Research and Leadership Consulting worldwide, has recently authored Vital Friends, a book that focuses on this key parameter of engagement. In it, Rath looks at eight vital roles that friends play - builders (those who motivate you to achieve more), champions (those loyalists

who stand up for you), collaborators (those with similar interests), companion (those classic friends who you call first with your news), connectors (those who introduce you to others), energizers (those who give you a boost when you''re down), mind-openers (those who expand your horizons) and navigators (those who you go to for advice) .

Why has Gallup''s question on workplace friendships been so controversial?

The problem was mainly with senior executives. Even the watered down version of ''do you have a friend at work'', seemed to raise hackles there. They didn''t like to be asked that question and some even said they didn''t want employees to have a best friend at work. On the other hand, younger people - computer programmers, those on the shop floor - thought it was an important issue. Age does have something to do with it. In the initial stages of their career, fresh out of college, people are used to spending 40% of their time with friends. But this goes down to 10% or less later on. As people move up through the ranks, they tend to isolate themselves within their own small area. At the top level, they have to compete with their peers and this creates tensions. Workplace friendships are not the best maintained. They tend to come and go.

Then why are friendships at work so important?

Friendships come and go, but they''re still important while they''re there. It''s especially important while inducting new people. Organizations need to help employees build friendships in the first six months. Without a best friend at work, the chances of you being engaged in your job are 1 in 12. Our research suggests that people without a friend at work all but eliminate their chances of being engaged during the workday. But overall, just 30% of the employees we''ve surveyed report having a best friend at work, and only 20% dedicate time to developing friendships on the job. Friendships are vital to happiness and achievement on the job, but individuals and organizations are still falling short.

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