Friend at Work

Do you have a friend at work?

Not so long back I read somewhere that our engagement at work is strongly affected by whether we have someone at our workplace we can call a friend. It seems having just one friend could be adequate to keep us engaged. So of course I was tempted to think about whether this was true in my case. I took a trip down memory lane and did a check.

I started my career at Deutsche Bank. There I was too much of a rookie to get any love from the haughty relationship managers (the group I belonged to), and too much of an outsider to be included in the operations inner-circle (the colleagues I trained with). I was like a lost puppy. In fact the only friend I was able to make at Deutsche Bank was my boss in Chennai, and that too during my notice period when we finally had some open conversations with each other. So what was my engagement like at the bank? Well, I left within less than a year of joining.

Next was Hewitt – easily the most enjoyable part of my career. I had SO much fun there! Working there was about having this incessant quest for fun and humor. There was banter throughout the day, and serious partying in the evening (on weekdays *and* weekends). I had so many friends at work. Some closer than others, for sure, but dear friends all of them. We went out a lot, Amrita and I were invited to their homes, and we hosted some parties as well. It was an amazing time! It was also a period where I learnt a lot about the work I’ve since done in my career. I was really engaged!

ABN AMRO Dubai was lovely too. Within the HR team, it was a trusting and caring environment. My boss and my HR colleagues picked up on my weakness for food early on, and used it effectively to humor me as well as indulge me! The only time I’ve cried at work was here, and I had the license to do it. I count individuals from that team among dear friends.

ABN AMRO in Amsterdam – this I see in two parts. Before the bank’s break-up, we were like a happy family. We’d hang out together, go out a lot, and I also had a chance to visit homes of several colleagues (not standard here in The Netherlands). Still get invited by some friends I know from that time, and can still have honest conversations with them. The part after the bank’s break-up was more sedate. It was like we were mourning something. Wait, was that the reason I left the bank?

HEINEKEN. This is interesting. I had people I could have a laugh with, and a couple of generous confidantes who’d take me out for Lunch every now and then, but I can’t say I had a BFF. I think I was older and more cynical, and probably didn’t make the effort. Also this was a phase in which I was not very communicative so I think people didn’t really know what to do with me. The funny thing is that I am *now* (after having left the organization) friends with many lovely people I worked with at HEINEKEN. Some still work there while some have quit.

There are many friendly people I work with at my current workplace but I don’t have a friend at work yet. I might be close – but I know I have to make the effort. The way we work means that we don’t get to interact with the same people everyday. This is a problem, but also a blessing in a way because your engagement is probably not a function of that one friend. I find myself really engaged any way!

What have your experiences been like in this respect? I’d be curious to hear from you.