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14th Jul 2016
3 Min Read

The power of workplace friendships

Lindsay Kohler
Lindsay Kohler
People & Change

Management consultancy firm Gallup believes that pairing up at work can add serious value to all organisations. Their workplace evaluations begin with a 12-question employee survey that measures how well workers’ various needs are met. High survey scores indicate strong employee engagement.

Item 10 on the survey is ‘I have a best friend at work’ and this survey statement has often puzzled employers or been seen as irrelevant. According to a blog at, Gallup’s researchers readily admit that senior executives balked at the idea of using the Q12 survey. Why? Because they couldn’t understand why the friendship item was included in the survey.

However, as workplace culture continues to evolve, more research shows that friendship at work is very important for ensuring colleague happiness and also for boosting productivity.

Donald Clifton, the former educational psychologist who founded Gallup and developed the Q12 survey was keen on measuring workplace friendships. He and other researchers – including management professors based at American universities – have shown that employees with a best friend at work tend to be more focused, more passionate, and more loyal to their organisations.

They also get sick less often and have fewer accidents – indeed some workers operating in a dangerous environment like mining have been encouraged to buddy up with a best friend at work, helping to reduce injuries and fatalities.

Reassuring and empowering

Many companies now actively encourage colleagues to become friends with one another and form the bonds that not only boost happiness but also productivity. From Ikea to Facebook to Google, workplace friendships are being encouraged.

Workplace friendships – in particular, very close friendships – build trust and loyalty. High quality relationships also give colleagues emotional strength during times of stress and adversity. From an employer’s perspective, employees also change jobs less frequently, boosting retention.

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