Do you have a best friend at work? And if you're the boss, do you think most of your employees would be able to name a coworker they consider to be a close friend?

I'm asking this after seeing the results of a survey of 2,000 U.S. workers conducted for the Bowlero Corporation, which owns and runs 300 bowling venues across the United States. 

They asked all kinds of questions about employee engagement and friendships. Among the findings:

  • 84 percent of those surveyed said a job can't truly be great unless they have great coworkers.
  • 67 percent say they have at least one co-worker who they consider a close friend.
  • Those who said they have close friends at work are more than twice as likely to also say they look forward to going to work than colleagues who don't.
  • 41 percent said they'd left a job because they didn't like the culture.
  • 36 percent say they'd take a pay cut if their workplace would better approach their ideal.

Now, I see surveys and stories like this all the time. I'm skeptical by nature, and the idea that a bowling company is suddenly going to get into the employee engagement research game is enough to raise an eyebrow or two.

I wondered at first if this might have been some kind of sly, better late than never response to Robert Putnam's 2000 book, Bowling Alone, about what he perceived as the demise of communities in American society.

But having thought a it deeper, my SWAG on why Bowlero is so interested in this is that it might be related to the idea that all four of Bowlero's brands have nice, albeit very similar, webpages on corporate events. (Bowlero did not respond to my request for comment.)

Anyway, the results -- especially those last two points -- are so aligned with what's reported elsewhere, in outlets you might be quicker to associate with this kind of thing (let's just say), that I have to put a bit of stock in it. For example:

Writing on Gallup.com, Annamarie Mann described the question I posed at the start of this article -- "Do you have a best friend at work" -- as: 

"...among the most controversial Gallup has asked in 30 years of employee engagement research [despite the fact that] ... our research has repeatedly shown a concrete link between having a best friend at work and the amount of effort employees expend in their job."

She was largely referencing another Gallup work, the bestselling book, 12: The Elements of Great Managing, by Rodd Wagner and Jim Harter: 

"Few issues are more controversial or confusing than the connection between friendships in the workplace and employee productivity." 

And as Yale University professors Emma Seppälä and Marissa King wrote in Harvard Business Review:  

"[P]eople who have a "best friend at work" are not only more likely to be happier and healthier, they are also seven times as likely to be engaged in their job.

What's more, employees who report having friends at work have higher levels of productivity, retention, and job satisfaction than those who don't."

You get the idea. And if you unpack the results of this Bowlero study, you might find yourself focusing on that last item, about what would prompt employees to take a pay cut: a workplace that better approaches their ideal, which seems to include more friendships.

I'm not suggesting you cut their pay, of course.

But if you can foster a culture where employees truly feel like their working in a culture among friends, you just might get the kind of loyalty money can't buy.
 

Published on: Oct 7, 2019
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