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  • Writer's pictureChuck Cusumano

Friends At Work

By Jillian Broaddus and Chuck Cusumano

If you’re familiar with employee engagement surveys – and even if you’re not – you’re likely familiar with Gallup. Suffice it to say that Gallup is the leader when it comes to research on engagement, with annual – and staggeringly depressing – statistics on the state of the global workforce. According to the most recent poll from May of 2023, only one-third (34%) of U.S. employees are engaged at work, with 16% reporting that they are actively disengaged.

Fixing the engagement epidemic begins with knowing where you stand. Is your workforce above or below the curve? Do you keep an accurate and frequent pulse on your organization, or is measurement of something seemingly intangible (as opposed to, say, total revenue) on the bottom of your to-do list?

Luckily, Gallup has made it simple to poll your people, with 12 definitive questions they claim “have proven to be the most effective survey questions to measure employee engagement.” And, we believe them – after decades of research, Gallup boasts data points from 2.7 million workers across 100,000+ teams.

On a scale of “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree,” here are the 12 Gallup questions:

1. I know what is expected of me at work. 2. I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right. 3. At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day. 4. In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work. 5. My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person. 6. There is someone at work who encourages my development. 7. At work, my opinions seem to count. 8. The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important. 9. My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work. 10.I have a best friend at work. 11.In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress. 12.This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.

While most items on the list may not be incredibly surprising – after all, anyone who has picked up on the “engagement” buzzword in the past decade knows an employee’s relationship with their manager is critical, their ability to grow is paramount, and that workers want to feel a part of something bigger – there is one question that often raises an eyebrow: “I have a best friend at work.”

Ultimately, aren’t work friendships a bit out of our control? You can’t necessarily pick your coworkers, work is a place to work and most have rewarding friendships outside of work, and the remote work revolution has made personal connection even tougher. However, despite all of these rationales, the survey item remains as one vitally tied to employee engagement. Because, at the end of the day, friends in the office can lower stress, bolster a sense of belonging, and bring happiness to day-to-day work life. Knowing why friendship is important, how does one make friends at work?

First, be intentional. It’ll take more than elevator small talk to form true friendship. So, ask a coworker to lunch. Have a team outing for coffee or dessert. Engage in meaningful conversation, and watch the doors that it opens!

Second, be open. This may be as simple as turning your camera on during Zoom meetings for remote employees, or as deep as letting down your walls in conversation. Share things about your personal life, and see who you can relate to on a level beyond the job at hand.

Third, be positive. Optimism and friendship have a chicken-or-the-egg sort of effect. Happier people attract more friends, and forming rewarding social relationships boosts our happiness. Control your attitude from the start, and set the cycle off on the right foot.

And finally, be patient. Researchers have found that it takes approximately 200 hours for someone to become a close friend. Like anything worth having, be patient and consistent in your efforts.

If you need advice on how to make your workplace one that fosters friendship, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at We’d love to help be a small part in helping the global engagement revolution!

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