How many friends would you say you have at work?
I don’t mean people you can usually tolerate. I mean people you call at 3 o’clock in the afternoon because you’re up to your eyeballs in incident reports and need someone to go eat a bowl of Lucky Charms in the cafeteria with you. Do you have a friend at work who you can go to when you make a big mistake and just need another office to hide in for a while? Do you have a colleague who shows up at your office door Monday morning with a venti latte with extra whipped cream because they know it’s going to be one of those weeks?
I’ve been thinking lately about how the dynamic of friendship has changed over the years, but after reading an article from the archives of TIME magazine, I’m now reflecting on my friendships with coworkers and Student Affairs colleagues across the nation.
The article is titled, “How to Make Friends Easily and Strengthen the Friendships You Have” by Eric Barker. The research from this survey is a bit outdated, but it’s still shocking to think that 25% of Americans reported having zero friends in 2004. That’s 1 in 4 that didn’t have a single friend!
Friendships are crucial to not only our social health, but our holistic well-being! Eric Barker says, “having too few friends is more dangerous than obesity and is the equivalent health risk of smoking 15 cigarettes a day.” Read that again.
Here are some of the key take-aways that can help us be better coworkers and, ultimately, friends:
- Be positive and encouraging! Barker says happy friends boost your chance of happiness by 15%. Unhappy friends decrease it by 7%. So, hold back that urge to have a cynical venting session every day over lunch and, focus on the great work and achievements of your coworkers, department, and students! Every department has its flaws, but ultimately, we are changing lives!
- Invest in your coworkers! Barker says if you can count at least three dear friends at the office, you are 96% more likely to be extremely satisfied with life in general. 96%! Having a friend whom you see on most days-compared to not having such a friend-had the same impact on well-being as making an extra $100,000 a year. That’s a lot in this field. Am I right? We spend at least 40 hours a week at work. That’s 40 hours each week with one another writing learning outcomes, interviewing student leaders, and doing committee work. Those can be a very lonely 40 hours each and every week if we aren’t taking the initiative to get to know one another and invest in each others’ lives.
- Dedicate quality time for friendships to form. The article says the most common friendship fight is over lack of quality time. So, don’t expect your friendships with coworkers to naturally happen over committee meetings. Go for campus walks with coworkers over your lunch break. Sit together for lunch. You’d be surprised how many of us are secretly waiting for the other to take the initiative.
- Team up! The article says living nearby is one of the most powerful drivers of friendship — far more than personality. Do you live in the same neighborhood? Walk your dogs together. As a hall director, I often feel like I live in a silo in my dedicated corner of campus. Once, I took my laptop and set up shop in another hall director’s office and immediately noticed the energy in the room. Just seeing someone constantly can make you enjoy them more. The more we enjoy our coworkers, the happier we are at work!
- Learn to appreciate the coworkers you dislike. We all have them: the coworker who sits in her office with the door closed with her own microwave and her own mini-fridge sending long, passive-aggressive emails with endless amounts of bold, italicized, and red words. Sometimes coworkers are going to be crabby for reasons you don’t understand. Our coworkers can discouraging and rude at times (we’re all human), however, take time to notice those delightful days when you are briefly invited into their world and a true
appreciation is formed. One of my favorite lines from the article is this: ““I’m willing to invite someone to dinner ten times and never see their house, because if you get into the cycle of pettiness, you won’t end up having any friends.” Sometimes, friendships with coworkers just won’t be in the cards; however, we can at least learn to appreciate and value one another in our unique ways.
- Have different types of friends. Don’t just stick to the coworkers in your department. Reach out to your colleagues across campus to collaborate on a program or brainstorm ideas over a cup of coffee. Talk to the people sitting next to you at conferences and exchange contact information and resources. Be flexible and open with your friendships. You never know who you might meet!
- Support, encourage, and motivate. I love this one! So crucial! I can’t be true friends with someone who doesn’t support what I do, encourage me in my pursuits, and motivate me to be a better person. If you aren’t doing this with your friends at work, you’re likely thinking too much about your own needs and being friends with a selfish person is a dead-end road. Friendship has to be reciprocal for it to be worthy of sustaining.
- Be vulnerable and ask for vulnerability. No one likes being friends with someone who appears to have the perfect life because-after comparing with our own messy lives- we’re annoyed after about 5 minutes. Own your weaknesses. Share your stories. Don’t fabricate your life. The only person you’re making feel good is yourself and it will wear off quickly. Once, a coworker simply opened my office door and said, “I had a huge fight with my husband last night. He said I work too much. I do. I work too much. I’m taking a personal day. We’re going to the zoo.” and walked out. I’m glad we’re all on the same page.
Now, do yourself a favor and read the entire article.
What were your key take-aways? What you would add?
> BONUS <
Podcast With Amma Marfo on Introversion in Student Affairs