September is friendship month, and as we head into the next few weeks, I encourage you to take some time to celebrate, connect, and reevaluate your relationships at work. There are probably more, but here are three strong reasons why your relationships with your work tribes do and should matter. If you have a friend at work, let's explore why we should keep them strong. If you don't, let's explore why we should start to shift our thinking today.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a friend is someone attached to us by affection or esteem, one that is not hostile. When most of us think of friendship, we think of people for whom we feel affection - our people, the folks we feel emotionally connected to. However, a friend can also be someone that we hold in great esteem. So now that we have broadened our thinking about friendship a bit, that opens the door for more relationships, especially at work. Here are three reasons why that matters:
According to research, people who are isolated increase their mortality by 29%, on average. When we find ourselves in toxic work environments where we feel alone and isolated, we shorten our lifespan. In addition to shortening our lifespan, we also increase the likelihood that we will be subject to certain diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and hypertension. The average American spends 8-10 hours at work a day, which means your work relationships, whether you like it or not, are some of the most important relationships that you can have in your life. So if your environment is not healthy, it's time to think about how you can change it, and if you can't change it, consider if it's time to move on.
When we work with "friends," there is a natural push to help each other succeed. Friendship is essential in leadership as well. Over the years, I have coached leaders who believed that they could not be friendly with their staff. In their minds, if they allowed their staff to become too familiar, they might lose respect. However, I can report hands down that in my experience, when leaders treat their teams as friends, the teams work hard and produced better results. The research backs this idea of the importance of friendship at work as well. According to Gallup, people who say they have a best friend at work are more engaged and deliver stronger results.
Confidence is often an issue for most new leaders or professionals in transition. Friends help to soften the blow of change and help us navigate the emotions of the transition. When we have friends at work, they support us, help us and teach us. Our work friends often remind us that we can figure it out even if we have not done it before. The good news is, when we increase our knowledge by doing or observing, especially with support, we build confidence.
As we wrap up this post for today, I am not sure where you are on the friendship journey at work. However, I encourage you to spend some time thinking about who is a part of your tribe at work and how deep you have allowed the relationship to go. We are healthier, happier, and more productive when our work relationships are authentic. If you don't have a "best" friend at work, look around and think about where you can start investing. I promise you won't regret it!
Leah Dean is a coach, speaker, author, and former HR executive who has worked with leaders across the globe to build high-performing teams, aka tribes, for over twenty years. Today, Leah works with women from all walks of life but is most passionate about helping women leaders show up with confidence and deliver exceptional business results. Leah lives in Bermuda with her husband and two children. To learn more about Leah's work and her best-selling book Assemble the Tribe, visit www.leahjmdean.com.