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Why Making Friends at Work Matters

Watching Lee Cowan’s feature, The real-life "80 for Brady" fans, on CBS Sunday Morning this past weekend, I couldn’t help but get excited to see the soon-to-be-released film starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Sally Field, Rita Moreno…and yeah, Tom Brady.

Neither a football nor a Brady fan––I’m still not over the whole Bridget Moynahan situation––my enthusiasm comes from being able to watch these four fabulous women together on screen. There is something so intoxicating about seeing people who are “masters of their craft” work together, it’s kind of breathtaking, no matter the medium. And Lee Cowan’s interview with these legendary actors sets the stage perfectly for the sense of true friendship we can expect to feel from their performances.


As a matter of fact, something Jane Fonda said got me thinking about the whole notion of making friends at work: "Women's friendships are very different than men's friendships. They're very important to our health. Because [men] kind of sit side-by-side and watch sports or cars or women. Women sit facing each other, eye-to-eye, and they say, I'm in trouble, I need you, can you help me. You know, we're not afraid of being vulnerable."


"Women's friendships are very different than men's friendships. They're very important to our health. Because [men] kind of sit side-by-side and watch sports or cars or women. Women sit facing each other, eye-to-eye, and they say, I'm in trouble, I need you, can you help me. You know, we're not afraid of being vulnerable." –– Jane Fonda


Google the topic of making friends at work and you’ll find a wealth of opinions, pros and cons. Ironically most of the “cons” I read seemed to come from men, or women trying to fit in to a man’s world…which I get because for years the popular wisdom was: if you behaved like a man, you’d have a better chance of getting ahead. Not anymore. In this new era of authenticity and empathy, friendships at work are just plain good for your health!

nancy mendelson women in hospitality

“Friendships at work matter. When so many hours are spent working, having someone who understands our situation — the players involved, the office dynamics, and the general organizational culture — can help buffer routine stress. When we share our experiences, it often reminds us that others have gone through similar ones,” offers Lynda Gratton, professor of management practice at London Business School and author of Redesigning Work: How to Transform Your Organization and Make Hybrid Work for Everyone


Gallup research found that agreement with the statement “I have a best friend at work” is a strong predictor of whether you are likely to stay in your job. Gallup also found a concrete link between having a best friend at work and the amount of effort a worker expends on their job. For example, “Women who strongly agree they have a best friend at work are more than twice as likely to be engaged (63%) compared with those who say otherwise (29%),” according to Gallup’s 2018 research.”


In an article for Forbes, New Study: Making Friends Is Hard But Work Can Help, Tracy Brower, Ph.D. tells us, "People need friends. They are literally lifeblood in terms of physical, cognitive, and emotional well-being. And work is an important place to make friends and feel a sense of connection and community. With loneliness on the rise and well-being on the decline, the opportunity today is significant—to reinvent the experience of work so it’s a venue for meaning, community, and friendship.”

Most of my longest and strongest friendships have been forged at work. And because my dear friend and former colleague, Emily Goldfischer, reached out and said, “I need you, can you help me,” is how hertelier and this column came to be.

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