My manager, my best friend

FriendshipsBy their own admission this is the most controversial item in the Gallup q12 (; many stumble over the word best as it implies exclusivity. However, if you can get past the semantics of the phrase, it’s easy to understand how having friends at work can have bottom line impact.

Profit enhancing behaviour such as intention to remain with the company and develop their career within the company has been shown to be higher amongst those with workplace friendships (with impact in the region of 25%). This makes sense as you are less likely to want to leave if you have formed attachments.

If you think about it, friendships would also likely have a positive impact on team performance; allowing for better work related communication, an environment where ideas can be challenged in a constructive way, there would also be a form of social pressure to do a good job. This might help explain why those with a best friend at work are, interestingly, more likely to recommend the company’s products and services (

In a recent article Kristin van Ogtrop outlines her beliefs that “there’s a difference between a boss and a best friend and there should be” ( This got me thinking about the survey item “I have a best friend at work” – what if staff are thinking of their boss? Indeed some companies, such as Google, have built reputations for fostering comradeship at work and this centres on the leaders of organisations. Surely, companies can and should create and value camaraderie as a competitive advantage for recruiting top employees, retaining employees, and improving engagement, creativity, and productivity. Indeed, there are strong links with those who have workplace friendships and manager related survey items; such as likeliness of receiving praise or recognition at work and likeliness to report that someone encourages their development; those with a best friend at work being 43% and 37% respectively more likely to agree (

Does this point to a proportion of those best friends being managers? And if so, is that so bad? It’s been widely reported that millennials in fact want a holistic relationship with their managers; the Wall Street Journal reporting they want you to ask about their weekends ( However, does this friendship then prevent a manager from effectively managing staff; being a good manager sometimes requires difficult staffing decisions to be taken. There are downsides to friendships at work. There can be “bumps: professional jealousy, groupthink, negative cliques, split loyalties, loss of work time to socialising, and broken friendships. However, these are all manageable and the benefits of positive relationships far outweigh any negative outcomes” (

“If your boss is a good one – meaning smart and kind – she definitely wants you to have a rich, fulfilling personal life. Partly because she is a nice person and partly because that will help make you a happy, successful employee” (

So it goes without saying that managers and employees need to foster collaboration, trust, personal relationships, fun, and support. Perhaps in an increasingly global and virtual environment, the challenge for employees and managers will be to cultivate these personal relationships. Fostering friendships takes proactive effort. Rather than concerning ourselves about the negative connotations of having a best friend manager at work.

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