Discover more from Understandably by Bill Murphy Jr.
"Feeling more disconnected from their workplaces ..." Also, 7 other things worth knowing today.
Think back to jobs you've had over the years, and the one crucial (but controversial) thing you probably remember most fondly.
Statistically speaking, there's a good chance these memories have as much or more to do with the work friendships you developed, as with specific professional milestones.
Here are three quick examples from my own life:
If I think back to when I was a trial attorney for a big government agency: Sure, it was great to get some big wins in court. But, the most enduring and positive memories I have are about how a group of us—who were all about the same age and hired about the same time—became friends, and still connect with each other 20 years later.
When I think about my time in the military: Yes, I'm proud to have raised my hand and volunteered (never saw combat, for which I'm grateful now), but what I think about most are all of the great people I served with and worked with. I was just talking recently with one of them, and it's been 15 years since we were in uniform together.
If I think about the digital media company I worked at for four years in New York City in the 2010s: Yes, I built tools I'm proud of and learned things that are the foundation for some of what I still do today. But, the big, warm and fuzzy memories of that time? They're all about the work friends that I made.
Put it all together and I'm pretty confident that having those work friendships made me a much better trial attorney, soldier, and digital media guy. And, it's a fantastic lesson, but it's also a problem.
Why? Well, for many years, Gallup has studied how having best friends at work affects employees' productivity and happiness. In summary, it's vital; perhaps one of the most important predictors.
Yet in 2023, it's also a lot harder to achieve.
Case in point: Last summer, Gallup released the results of a survey that asked employees whether they had a "best friend" at work. In short, only 2 out of 10 employees said they "strongly agree" with the idea that they do in fact have one.
The idea is "controversial," according to Gallup. "But one stubborn fact about this element of engagement cannot be denied: It predicts performance."
Specifically, Gallup says answering yes to the "best friend at work" question" can help with other specific areas of employee and engagement, including whether employees reported liking their coworkers in general, being recognized for success, and even just whether they "had a lot of enjoyment" at work on a given day.
Also worth noting: The percentage of employees who say they have a "best friend" at work has stayed flat or declined since the pandemic, with the biggest drop—about 12.5 percent—for workers under age 35: basically later Millennials and Gen Z.
As Gallup researcher Jim Harter told the AP:
"[Y]ounger people in general are feeling more disconnected from their workplaces. You can attribute some of that potentially to remote work.
If they're less connected to their workplace, they have fewer opportunities to connect with other colleagues and to develop those kinds of friendships that they might have had in the past."
Also relevant: the pandemic.
A few weeks ago, I talked with a guy who got a job at a big tech company during the pandemic. You’d know the company but I’m not going to say which one; I don’t know if he thought I’d write about him here.
Anyway, he lasted one year before he decided to leave and start his own thing. But if that seems like a short tenure, there’s an extenuating circumstance: During the full time he worked there, he never once set foot in the office, and he never met any of his colleagues in person—all of whom were remote.
I don’t know how you’re supposed to make work friends under those circumstances.
After that conversation and a few others, I decided to try to brainstorm ideas on how to get employees to know each other better and maybe spark a friendship or two. Here’s what I came up with:
Build “spotlight time” into scheduled remote meetings: Ask 1-2 people on each call to spend just a minute or two talking about something important or
interesting to them that isn’t the main subject of the meeting.
If you’re an employer, pick up the check for in-house networking. “Free coffee” or “free lunch” or “free drinks,” but only if you go with someone you don’t yet have a relationship with.
Incentivize mentorship. I'm struck by the idea that this no-work-friends phenomenon hits younger workers hardest. So, maybe try to encourage both-ways mentorship among more senior and junior employees.
OK, that was probably less of a “brainstorm” than a “brainshower,” but maybe it gets us started. In the comments: Do you have a best friend at work? Do you have work friendships from old jobs you still value? And what should be number-4 on my list above?
7 other things worth knowing today
A previously unreported cyberattack earlier this month forced produce giant Dole to temporarily shut down production plants in North America and halt food shipments to grocery stores. “Dole Food Company is in the midst of a Cyber Attack and have subsequently shut down our systems throughout North America,” Emanuel Lazopoulos, senior vice president at Dole’s Fresh Vegetables division, said in a February 10 memo to retailers. (CNN)
A coast-to-coast storm that has put as many as 75 million Americans under winter storm watches, warnings or weather advisories is also causing havoc for travelers with flight cancellations and delays in key airport hubs like Denver, Chicago, Detroit and Minneapolis. There were more than 1,500 flight cancellations within, into or out of the United States. More than 3,800 flights were delayed. (WashPost)
For nearly 70 years, the demilitarized zone that divides the Korean Peninsula has stayed off limits to nearly all human habitation. Now, 360-degree views of the area inside the civilian control line, a buffer zone outside the DMZ, are available via Google Street View. Sounds that were captured from the scene are also available. (WSJ, Google Arts & Culture)
The foreperson of the Georgia grand jury investigating former President Trump and others with regard to the 2020 election has been on a bizarre media tour lately, creating "a prosecutor’s nightmare" in the event charges actually result. (CNN)
Citing inflationary pressures and sinking enrollment, more colleges are set to close in 2023. Presentation College in Aberdeen, South Dakota; Cazenovia College in Cazenovia, New York; Holy Names University in Oakland, California; and Living Arts College in Raleigh, North Carolina, announced they will shut down after the current academic year. The number of colleges closing down in the past 10 years has quadrupled compared with the previous decade. (CNBC)
More than 60 percent of young men are single, nearly twice the rate of unattached young women, signaling a larger breakdown in the social, romantic and sexual life of the American male. Men in their 20s are more likely than women in their 20s to be romantically uninvolved, sexually dormant, friendless and lonely; only half of single men are actively seeking relationships or even casual dates, according to Pew. That figure is declining. (The Hill)
Aw man, there goes Plan D: Portugal will end its so-called golden visa program for new foreign property buyers as it tries to address the lack of affordable housing in one of Western Europe’s poorest economies. (Bloomberg)