I would never normally watch a TV program called Wonder of Dogs. To be honest I wouldn’t normally watch any TV program about dogs. But I was relaxing on the sofa trying to avoid falling asleep after a week where I have been back in the USA. These can be what my children used to call ‘you sit down…you fall asleep’ weekends. I was flicking the channels trying to stay awake.
The dog program was energetic. The presenters were energetic and the dog owners even more energetic. I was lethargic. My mind kept drifting off to think about last week. People and places. Meetings and moments. My eyes were closing. I looked up and saw dog owners being wired up with blood pressure monitors in small rooms with video cameras. Intriguing.
It was a stress test. The so called Serial Subtraction Stress test. A simple concept. Each person had to serially subtract 3 from 1277 out loud for at least 5 minutes. 1277 1274 1271…Apparently this is harder than it sounds and – sure enough – the test induced stress with these dog owners as measured by increased blood pressure.
But then the test was repeated with the subjects allowed to have their dogs sit with them. In each case the owner was less stressed. The companionship of their dog during the test made them more relaxed. This interested me. And each owner knew they felt more relaxed with their dog. With their companion. Their ‘best friend’. I was awake.
OK – so yes. A pseudo scientific test on a Saturday afternoon. But why was it so interesting to me? So relevant? After all I have never had a dog…nor do I intend to get one. But I could relate to the effect of companionship. The impact of a friend on how I feel.
I have taken part in many surveys of colleague engagement. One I used for several years included a question that asked – with a scale of 1 to 5 – whether we ‘had a best friend at work’? This question caused so much debate. Why a ‘best’ friend? Why ‘at work’? There was always much discussion, many interpretations and mountains of answers. Although my opinion about the point of the question varied each time, my answer was always a resounding yes. The maximum 5.
So why does this question matter? Why did it come to me as a sat drifting in and out of my Dog Wonder show? It matters because I always used to answer ‘yes’ to the best friend at work. Because I always felt more relaxed when I spoke with my best friend at work. Because I felt happier and more engaged when we worked together. They were there for me and I for them.
Moreover, the choice of ‘best’ was an important factor. A best friend does not materialise immediately. For any friend to become a best friend takes time. It does not happen overnight.
And so, as I sat there dozing with the dog show, I realised that – in an instant and almost by definition – changing company means my answer to the best friend at work question reverts to 1 (or zero if it were possible). And I realised that a best friend at work is important to me. Someone with whom I always just feel better. Happier and more engaged about everything. Someone who helps me feel less stressed by anything. Someone who knows me. Someone who is just there for me.
Moving company is a big deal. I continue to invest in my new network. I am building friendships. It will not happen overnight. It will just take time.