Is friendship a good measure of employee engagement?

Share Button

The measure of friendship on employee engagement has been touted by Gallup for the longest time. In their employee engagement surveys, one of the questions employees have to answer is: “Do you have a best friend at work?”

The question is: Does the measure of friendship determine the level of employee engagement?

The answer I believe is both yes and no.

Yes, because having a best friend at work means you have someone whom you can pour your heart out to; there is someone that would listen to you; there is someone that will not judge you; there is someone who would give you unbiased feedback and comments. This could help the employee overcome adverse situations in a better way.

On the other hand, having a best friend at work is one of the most difficult things to do. And the reason is because friendships are forged naturally, and not the result of corporate initiatives. Take for instance, team-building activities. Team-building exercises can help employees who already work well together, form better and stronger relationships. However rifts between employees could be worsened if the employees don’t get along at work and they are put together to work together as a team in a team-building exercise. This is because the flaws and shortcomings of the other party will become even more apparent.

To illustrate, suppose you and I work very well together, and we are placed together in a team-building exercise. By virtue of the fact that we already get along well and work well together in the office, we will be able to easily work together in the team-building exercise. Team-building exercises can enhance bonds and relationships if the people involved already get along well together.

Now imagine you and I are always at each other’s throats. We just can’t get along; we can’t agree with each other; and we can’t work together productively. Would a team-building exercise help you and me to get along better and work better together? The chances are extremely slim. This is because your flaws will become even more obvious to me and vice versa. This runs the risk of further widening the rift between you and me. No amount of corporate orchestration can foster the personal bonds of friendship.

According to Rodd Wagner, a former principle of Gallup, data shows that friendship actually ranks lower than collaboration and team work.

The reason is this: While friends may make you happy, team mates help you get things done.

What most people want is to have great team mates who can all work together and get things done. And if we become friends along the way, that’s a bonus, but not crucial.

I have worked in organisations where people are very productive, but they are not best friends. On the other hand, I have seen best friends who are totally ineffective and the least engaged simply because they did not want to upset their best friend.

So the bottom-line is this: Friendship is not a crucial determinant in employee engagement. So perhaps we should all stop using friendship as a measure of employee engagement in our workplace.


About the Author


STEVEN LOCK is a Speaker, Trainer, Author and a Leadership Coach. Steven brings with him two decades of corporate experience.

Steven is passionate about helping organisations transform their teams into high performing teams. He does that by first helping organisations identify and hire the right people, and then training their leaders and managers on how to manage and lead their people to achieve peak performance consistently.

He is the developer of The CAAP® High Performance Model. This model focuses on Culture (cultural fit), Attitude, Aptitude and Personality dimensions of their employees and job candidates. It is a highly practical, effective and proven approach. Steven believes that for organizations to be truly successful and perform at their highest levels, they need to shift their mind-sets to having the RIGHT people on-board – and not necessarily the best or the brightest.

Steven is the Author of two books:

• “Hiring for Performance: The CAAP® Model to Hiring and Building High-Performance Teams.”
• “The Right Talent: The Agility-Focused Interviewing Approach™ to Hiring the Right Candidate Every Time.”

He is also the developer of The Leadership STYLE Report™ that is based on Dr. Daniel Goleman’s research on leadership styles.

Steven has been featured on MediaCorp’s live radio show The Breakfast Club on 938FM, and has contributed numerous articles to Singapore Business Review, ST Recruit, SHRI Human Capital and other publications. His comments on Team Collaboration was quoted in the Spring 2014 Edition of the Harvard Business Review OnPoint Magazine.

Steven holds a Master of Business (Information Technology) from Curtin University of Technology, Western Australia. He is a certified DISC & MBTI® (Step I & II) practitioner.

Recently Steven was invited as a guest speaker to share about his CAAP(R) High Performance Model with over 600 delegates at the Vietnam HR Summit 2016 in Ho Chi Minh City.


Share Button
August 25, 2015

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *