A number of years ago I was completing a staff satisfaction survey for a company I was working for. One question has always stuck with me.
At the time the question puzzled me. I’m not here to make friends, I’m here to work, I thought to myself. When completing this survey, I loved my job, loved my boss and received recognition and support in my role but I did not have a best friend at work, not even close. I am a naturally bubbly and friendly person; I am comfortable around others and feel like I easily engage with people. In this particular work place, I had people I would call work friends, people I would happily chat and joke with but no one I referred to as a best friend.
Come to think of it I have never had a job where the social relationships with work colleagues have been central to my life. But then again I have always found myself working with colleagues 15+ years my senior. That was until a couple of years ago.
I moved states and began working for a company that ran itself a bit like a start up. It was full of young people and for the first time I found myself making connection with my colleagues that extended outside the workplace. Not only did I form valuable friendships but these people impacted my performance, and life for the better!
I had one colleague that guided me through the dysfunction of working with the company’s executive team. This person once described me as a spitfire, driven and unafraid. I learnt so much from him and much of my drive was guided by his unwavering support of me. When he left the company I found myself at a loss. My go-to-person was no longer two steps away. The person I turned to that assisted me to decipher what was requested from the executive team (whom never communicated with each other and who seemed just as confused giving instruction as I felt receiving it from them) was no longer right there waving the ‘Go Rachael' flag and it was tough! Even though we have not worked together for almost a year now we still speak almost weekly and his professional support, continued sharing of his knowledge and friendship has not ceased.
Another colleague I worked with at the same company was a person I quickly realised I could talk to about anything and everything, from my failing relationships to my crazy and outlandish thoughts and ideas. I discovered a true and beautiful friend. One who tells me straight up if she thinks something is not in my best interest but fully supports me no matter what. This is a person I know I can rely on; one of those friends who would cancel anything to be by my side at a moment’s notice, if that’s what I needed. You know those special people that make sure you stop, ensure you eat and help you to reflect, that is her! There are always frustrations in any and every workplace and it makes a huge difference if there is someone you can confidently and confidentially share your thoughts, frustrations and your lunch with. But more than this is having someone you look forward to seeing day to day, can’t wait to share that funny story with because you know they’ll get it and before you know it your quick phone call has lasted an hour and half.
There are some people you instantly connect with, those people you meet and feel like you’ve known them forever. When this woman joined the team it was like a breath of fresh air hit me square in the face. The stale work environment that was fast becoming toxic seemed to ease with her presences. I found myself excited about the work we were doing together, eager to collaborate, I wanted her to succeed. Before this woman joined the team, I was questioning whether I wanted to continue working for the company and even remain in the industry. She was bright, bubbly and shared a vibrant silly side matching me perfectly. We bounced ideas of each other, I found myself being reinvigorated, re-energized and focused.
It has been these people that have encouraged me and fostered my professional development, not the management teams I worked under. They made dysfunctional workplaces bearable, even enjoyable. These people are no longer simply colleagues or work best friends but great and special people that make up a big part of my inner circle. Dear friends that fiercely support me and my professional growth.
Being part of a workplace environment with fun and vibrant people that actively want to connect, engage, support and encourage is just as a high priority for me as professional growth opportunities, autonomy and flexibility. After all so much of my time is spent at work.