Today’s workforce suffers from a lack of work friends, and it’s become a global epidemic. HR advisory and research firm Future Workplace recently conducted a study with Virgin Pulse of more than 2,000 managers and employees in 10 countries. The study revealed that:

  • Nearly 1 in 10 people have no friends at work, and more than half have five or fewer.
  • Those with few friends said they felt lonely either very often or always and disengaged in their work.
  • Almost two-thirds said they would be more inclined to stay with their company longer if they had more friends.
  • 70 percent of employees say friends at work is the most crucial element to a happy working life, and 58 percent of men would refuse a higher-paying job if it meant not getting along with co-workers.

Real friendship is the key to our long-term career success, health and happiness. Our basic human need for friendship gives us the sense of belonging, purpose, confidence and satisfaction that we crave.

Here are a few ways you can both create more friendships at work, and increase the quality of the working relationships you already have.

  1. Make the first move. It may be human nature to sit back and analyze the people around us before we grant them our trust, but it’s important to realize that most of your colleagues are also waiting for people to make a move. So, make the first move. Offer support to a coworker when it’s unexpected. Show them you’re willing to be a true friend by creating new opportunities or helping them achieve their win. Yes, you might get burned in the process. But, our guess is that they’ll support you in your next quest.
  2. Pay attention. This might sound simplistic, but most of us are really bad listeners. People are consistently telling us their stories, and many of us aren’t good at truly understanding what they’re trying to say. For example, “Another boring weekend home with my cats,” might be a cry of loneliness. Or, “I’m totally overwhelmed so I can’t talk right now,” might be a perfect situation to ask, “What can I help you with to take something off your plate?” By just taking an extra second to pause and ask, “What are they trying to communicate?” can improve any relationship in an instant.
  3. Remain positive. While it’s true that coworkers can form bonds by complaining about their life, other coworkers, or unfavorable company policy, negative speech rarely actually builds trust. When coworkers complain, it’s okay to listen, but try to keep your own speech positive. For example, if your colleague wants to talk about Brian’s shortcomings as a manager, try to keep your words positive by saying something like, “Well, I know Brian is under a lot of stress right now. I wonder if there’s a way we could support him better.” Keeping your speech positive will show your friend that you’re not going to speak poorly of them.
  4. Play like a team. Most of us, at some point, have played on a team. We understand that if you’re playing right field in softball, that you might not see much action during the game. But, that doesn’t mean you’re not contributing. Look around to see how your contributions are serving others, and how you can improve your actions to make a better contribution to those around you. If you’re stuck playing right field and you think there’s very little you can do, other than staying awake, think again. You might not field a ball in the game, but you can cheer for those who do.
  5. Keep your word. If you say it, do it. There’s no faster way to destroy trust than to break a promise.

The workplace, although often competitive, is a great place to build life-long friendships. It’s often a place where true character is revealed. And, although you can’t control the intentions or actions of others, you do have control of your own. Be the friend you want to have. Eventually, you’ll end up with a network of people who have your back in almost any situation.


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