Written by Catherine Adenle
Slice or dice it however you want, according to the research by Tom Rath, the author of Vital Friends, we can’t afford to not to have friends at work. It’s good to have friends not just in high places but amongst our co-workers too.
At work, the more people you interact with, the bigger your circle of influence gets. You may be conscientious at work or have a number of demonstrable skills but if you lack the skill to network or meet and make friends with different types of people, certain important work-related recognition or promotion may elude you. However, if you take the time to know the right people, work will be more enjoyable and free of stress.
The ecosystem of the workplace consists of various types of people. Among them are the 7 types of friends you need at work from time to time. To make things work well in the workplace, each of these 7 types of friends have their own purpose just like you have yours.
To get and utilise your circle of influence at work, these are the 7 types of friends that you need at work:
1. Gina, ‘the Gossip’ Friend: You need this type of friend for two reasons: A gossip will always let you know what is happening at work and she will help you to amplify any information that you need to share with people.
Frankly, you need to be part of the group of people with up to date information about what is happening in your team, group or department. While I ask you to absolutely steer clear of the malicious, bullying, backstabbing, false accusations kind of gossip, there are times and places when getting and having the right underground information are going to be hugely advantageous to your job.
You need a friend like Gina who is gossip to broadcast the news that you are willing to share with everyone for you. For instance, if you are working on a project that you need everyone’s buy-in for, sit with Gina the Gossip and discuss the advantages of getting everyone on board. Leave the rest to the gossip; he’ll broadcast it for you.
Caution: Never discuss anything that you don’t want to hear elsewhere with a gossip. With a gossip, listen and nod more than you speak. Learn to become a good-natured gossip with her.
2. Eddie, ‘the Eagle-Eyed’ Friend: Nobody is perfect! You need this type of friend who is super good at spotting typos and errors. Usually, an eagle-eyed friend like Eddie will also be there to pick holes in your business documents before you share them with the world. At work, such friends are usually the experienced ones that have worked in several results-driven organisations with a sound command of grammar and superior aptitude for writing. Eddie is the individual everyone appreciates and turns to for advice on proposals and policies.
Caution: Always remember that your timeline means nothing to Eddie as he tends to be a procrastinator. He may put off doing something, especially out of habitual laziness or focus on other areas of immediate concern to him. A friendly chase is always good to get him to check your content. Do something for him in return to show your appreciation.
3. Ivan, ‘the IT Geek’ Friend: You need this type of friend at work. Ivan, the IT Geek friend of yours is someone whose intelligence in all things computers, excel, PowerPoint etc. exceed your own. He is not in the IT department but he’s faster, more clued up and always eager to help you should there be an issue with your laptop or any of the software that you use.
Caution: Ivan is aware of how good he is and the resources available to him at his fingertips on the web. He might not like control or any sort of restrictions, so ensure that he keeps to the policies of the company while he fixes your hardware or software.
4. Nathalie, ‘the Networker’ Friend: Nathalie is the type of friend that knows everybody inside and outside your organisation. She is well connected online and everywhere and she can help you to find new professional friends, opportunities and new beginnings. Nathalie will break through any barriers to make magic happen for you. She is the type of friend that can connect you with who is who in your field. She’s the soul of any party. You need Nathalie to reach people and places you can’t reach by yourself.
Caution: Don’t offend or cross Nathalie’s path! She can ruin your professional reputation within few minutes. She has the avenues to make this happen in nanoseconds. Be professional when you are with Natalie. Let her coach or mentor you occasionally. Look up to her and let her know that you cherish her connection.
5. Cindy, ‘the Critique’ Friend: You need Cindy in your life at work. She is usually the devil’s advocate, the one who doesn’t think twice before asking the hard questions. She sees what you cannot see. She’s very good when it comes to spotting problems before they arise. Like it or not, you need Cindy’s perspective. Although you do not realise it, Cindy in a way looks out for you. She is preparing you for success and wants you to be smarter and be on your way. Cindy is always one of the ‘go-to’ persons for you and a voice of reason.
Caution: Know when to involve her in your work and pick what you share with her otherwise you may feel deflated after her feedback.
6. Jack, ‘the Joker’ Friend: When the going gets tough at work, you need a friend like Jack to help you in order to laugh things off. There is actually some truth to the old saying, “laughter is the best medicine.”
Remember, we spend most of our time at work. That’s a long time for anyone to keep their professional face on. It’s important to have a type of work friends like Jack who is a joker near your office or cubicle. Take a break during your workday to have a good laugh. Stand up, go and see Jack at least once a week. Jack has a good sense of humour. Let’s face it, laughing offers a lot of benefits, including calming you down, minimizing stress and making you feel happy. You will always feel refreshed after you have seen Jack and you’ll be ready to dive into work once again.
Dr Lee Berk and Dr Stanley Tan of Loma Linda University in California discovered that laughing lowers blood pressure; reduces stress hormones and boosts immune function.
Caution: Know when to be serious or firm with Jack. He may get carried away and not take things seriously.
7. Matt, ‘the Mentor’ Friend: You need a friend like Matt at work. Mentors like Matt are a great resource to have because they usually have been where we would like to go. Matt to you is your hero, your role model and cheerleader at work. He is the person you seek to imitate in terms of career progression. He knows the steps you need to take, he can easily discover opportunities and often he has ideas that you may never have thought of. So rather than walk blindly into your career path, Matt can mentor and guide you through.
Matt is your guiding entity, someone whose presence reminds you of where you want to be. He is amazing at what he does and he’s genuinely happy for you to succeed. He looks out for you and champions your attributes. You want to make Matt proud and his support will help you to maintain focus.
Caution: You need Matt more than he needs you. Don’t be a pest as he’s only going to mentor you when he can fit you into his busy schedule. Regardless, he’s your champion.
Many employers need to build interoffice friendships in light of mounting research showing that strong social connections can boost productivity and have a positive effect on company profitability. In addition, having a great support team at work will help you to be more engaged at work. This is according to the research by Tom Rath, the author of Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without, which is based in part on interviews by The Gallup Organization. Gallup research shows that close friendships at work boost employee satisfaction by almost 50%.
Now that you know the types of friends you need at work, what type of friend are you to others at work?