A friend retired from work last week. Mixed emotions really. Delight for him and his family. Gratitude from those who had opportunity to work with him. Despondency for me. I haven’t just lost a friend at work…I have lost a best friend at work.
There was a survey I used to do every year…an engagement survey. One question was whether I had a best friend at work? For years it intrigued me. What does that question mean? Why was it asked in such a precise way? There’s data – of course – on how well this precise question predicts for an engaged workforce…increased retention, enhanced productivity.
But I always found myself questioning the question…why a best friend rather than a friend? Why not a good friend? Or a close friend?
‘Best’ was a very deliberate choice of word. Every time I answered the question, I found myself thinking that little bit more about people I worked with on a regular basis, people I saw often at work and those who I talked to regularly at work. The question always makes me think about friends; about what friendship meant to me. How did I define a best friend?
And the one year, my question questioning introspection was blown away – something surprising happened…something that completely changed my mind about this question! One of my colleagues – someone I had worked with for years – actually made time to let me know that they thought of me as a best friend at work.
That message made my day – at the time I said it made my year. Even now some eight years later, I remember exactly how I felt when I opened that email! I also remember how I promptly decided to do exactly the same thing and told both that friend – and one other – that I had answered yes to that Best Friend at Work question because of my friendship with them.
A best friend at work is special to me. A best friendship based on comparable outlooks and similar values. A friendship based on laughing at the same things, enjoying similar things, being frustrated by much the same events and topics.
I am passionate about my work and what we do together…but who I work with and how I feel about those people and that team is very important to me as well. We all spend more of our day at work than we do at home. I would be sad, surprised or both if we didn’t want and need strong connection with our team members.
What we do and the colleagues I do it with make me feel good and make me proud. But my best friend at work was someone I would go to when I wanted to celebrate or needed to commiserate – both about my life at work and my life at home. I know that without a best friend at work then my work will feel lonelier and inevitably more isolated.
I have lost an attachment to work. I have lost a best friend. But for wonderful reasons I hasten to add. He is still a friend of course. He emailed me the day after he left! He had more ideas and more suggestions he wanted to share.
But it was an email. His personal email address. I read it. I replied. But I knew everything had changed. It wasn’t the same and it won’t be. It can’t be and it shouldn’t be.
Best friends at work have left me before (or I have left them). I am just delighted to have known them in work. So pleased I still know them out of work.