Career Guide

Do you have a friend?

Camaraderie at work increases productivity and output

Iron Man Tony Stark, Dr Bruce Banner aka the Incredible Hulk, Hawkeye, Black Widow and Captain America were great superheroes fighting battles alone. Then they were brought together by Nick Fury to save the world from the evil Loki.

Thus, begins the movie The Avengers. In the movie, we see a bunch of ineffective, bickering superheroes with super egos suddenly transformed into a high performing team. How did this transformation happen?

You’d realise the turning point of their success came when they stopped focusing on themselves and actually became friends.

As their friendship grew, they became more effective. They started realising how important each person was and took notice of each other’s strengths.

In life, no one can do it alone. We are created to be in relationships with others.

Friendship is what made the Avengers tick. It’s always what makes great businesses tick too.

Sony started, thanks to the strong friendship between Akio Morita and Masaru Ibuka. Intel’s roots stem from the friendship of Andy Grove, Gordon Moore and Bob Noyce.

Even Apple’s creation stems from the friendship between Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. Deep friendships enable lasting partnerships in business.

According to research by Gallup, personal friendships at work can increase satisfaction by as much as 50%.

Gallup’s study entitled Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford To Live Without highlighted that people with three friends at work were 46% more likely to be extremely satisfied with their jobs and 88% more likely to be satisfied with their lives.

In fact, Gallup’s employee engagement benchmark survey includes the question, “Do I have a best friend at work?” as one of the indicators of greater engagement in the workplace.

Having a best friend at work is linked to higher organisational productivity, profit, employee retention, motivation and customer satisfaction.

Donald Trump is Wrong!

One Christmas, I was given a Donald Trump book as a gift. As I opened it, immediately there was mention of Trump’s famous reality TV series The Apprentice.

In almost every episode, you see these top business people fighting for corporate glory, using a common phrase: “I’m not here to make friends! It’s nothing personal.”

Friendship is an area that most business leaders feel is taboo to business success. They’ve got it completely wrong (yes, including Trump).

The best businesses have teams with strong bonds of friendship, with each member willing to “die for the cause” and the team.

What many business leaders don’t realise is that a key reason most business teams fail is due to a low level of trust. Trust deepens as you become friends with colleagues. And this is done through true heart-to heart connections and friendship.

In the movie, friendship amongst the Avengers finally developed into trust for each other. They even started trusting each other to lead and execute.

Great teams thrive because each person plays his/her role yet occasionally fills in the gaps when one of the team members fails.

However, if we are not friends in our team, we are unlikely to “catch” another when they fall.

Live longer

Most amazingly, friendships at work can extend your life (yes, you read that right!). Researchers from Tel Aviv University reported that those who enjoyed good friendships at work had a significantly lower risk of dying from any cause.

People with the most supportive peer relationships at work had lower rates of mortality, and the effect held over the entire 20-year period of the study.

Another study from Flinders University found those with a strong network of peers outlived those with the least friends by 22%.

Friendship retreats, anyone?

Many companies spend a lot of money on employee engagement initiatives. How many of these initiatives include strategies to facilitate the development and sustenance of friendships among employees? Friendship matters and is critical.

Friends are the ones who know you as you are, understand where you have been, accept who you have become, and still encourage you to grow.

‘A-HA’ moment

Isn’t this the essence of employee engagement and leadership? Being accepted and encouraged and pushing each other to grow and fulfil our potential is the dream of most business leaders. So, why not create the means to enhance friendships at work?

One of the ways to start is by offering retreats where employees can bond together. At Leaderonomics, we work hard to ensure we constantly have opportunities where friendship can be deepened.

Here are my top 10 ways to increase friendship in your organisation:

1. Reach out first - Take the first step to initiate friendship. Don't wait for others to connect with you.

2. Don't judge - friends can come in any form. Don't let appearances or reputation influence you

3. Schedule time for friendship at work - just set up some time to get to know people at work and nurture your friendships

4. Ensure focused attention when you're with friends at work - learn to listen and truly listen

5. Learn to love people - genuine friendship begins with love and caring

6. Learn to love yourself - when you dislike yourself, people will sense it and likewise react to you as you do to yourself

7. Be the friend you like to have - you get as much as you put in to your friendship

8. Be honest with your friends - without honesty there is no friendship

9. Stay in touch whenever possible - if you travel constantly, lack of presence could jeopardise friendships. Find ways to stay in touch

10. Gestures of kindness - occasionally shower your friends with small gifts, notes of encouragement and small gestures of thoughtfulness

Final thoughts

According to geneticists, each of us alive today would have more than 1.1 milionl relatives living in AD 1066 when the population of the world was merely 200 million.

So for any two people alive today to be related by a common ancestor a thousand years ago is roughly one in 200.

This means we are all part of the same family anyway. As such, building friendships at work may not seem an issue after all. We can literally assume we are just building friendships among lost “relatives”.

The workplace is where we spend most of our waking hours, so having strong friendship in the workplace is important.

So, let’s strive to build deep friendships with our co-workers and employees. It could mean the difference between success and failure in your business.

Roshan Thiran is CEO of Leaderonomics, a unique social enterprise focused on inspiring people to leadership greatness. For great teambuilding programmes to enhance friendships and trust in your organisation, email You can also access great new tips on leadership at