“Do you have a work wife?”
Wait. What did I say? It was just an innocuous question. Well, 30 years of workplace engagement research has revealed it to be the most “controversial” question ever asked. This seemingly innocent question has the power to rile up a whole slew of rankled bosses who think that work friendships shouldn’t even exist in the first place!
For the cherry on top, women’s workplace relationships are viewed as particularly unprofessional by men who find the intimacy women exhibit with their work friends as threatening and unnecessarily chit chatty. We are all familiar with the “Drama, drama, drama” glances our male counterparts cast our way when they see us talking to a female friend. Or those stereotypical comments of “What’s the gossip now, ladies?” While these remarks are often nothing more than harmless banters, they insinuate that all female conversations are “idle chatter.”
In reality, “a work wife is someone whose friendship you would treasure anyway, but also the only reason you don’t hate your job on the worst days, and a big part of the reason your love your job on the best ones”, as Rachel Wilkerson Miller aptly describes.
Long before I knew the term “work wife,” I had an awesome teammate, Nina, at my very first job. With us, things just unfolded naturally. One minute, Nina and I were proofreading each other’s work and covering each other shifts, the next we were confiding in each other, riffing on one another’s jokes, consulting with one another on which workplace gossip was true and which was rumored, live-blogging our work days to one another over Slack and swapping stories about our weekends. Over time, we formed a true partnership—one that made me realize the creative doors that open up when women channel their professional and emotional energy toward one another in the workplace.
Why Is Having A ‘Work Wife’ Good For You?
According to Gallup, having a best friend at work equals better performance and enhanced productivity. The report finds that only 2 in 10 employees have a work friend as of 2018, but if that number reached 6 in 10 employees, organizations would see 7% more engaged customers, 12% higher profits, and 36% fewer safety incidents.
Gallup research directly links the amount of effort employees invest in their job to having a best friend at work. This especially holds true for women, since women who have a best friend at work are 63% more likely to be engaged, and much less likely to switch jobs. Not to mention, having a work wife makes women more likely to take risks that lead to innovation, understand what the company expects of them, and feel solidarity with their team. Especially in male-dominated businesses, social friendships among women can ease conflict among female employees.
All of this makes sense. Which is exactly why you need a Work wife!
Why Should You Get Yourself A Work Wife?
1. Never Feel Lonely At Work Again
A survey conducted by Yale researchers Marissa King and Emma Seppälä reveals that 50 percent of employees feel burned out on the job and feeling lonely at work is the biggest culprit. Another research links social support at work with enhanced productivity, greater job satisfaction, and lower occurrences of burnout. This shows how a positive social relationships with co-workers is essential to workplace happiness.
While laughing on silly jokes, whispering about your crazy colleagues and discussing your personal lives might prove to be a distraction sometimes, the increase in performance, mental well-being, and motivation you experience, more than make up for the lost time.
2. A Friendly Face In The Room
Even though its 2020, Women still find it hard to get their ideas and voice heard at the office. Some women combat this discrimination by sticking together. For instance, the women of the Obama white house have developed a habit of reiterating and praising each other’s ideas until they are acknowledged by the men in the room. Having your work wife in the room helps women reach out for wider horizons, speak their minds more openly, and act boldly. Without a friendly face in the vicinity, you would find yourself more apt to apologizing for everything or labeling your hard labor as teamwork.
3. She Will Have Your Back
This holds true in more ways than you can possibly comprehend. Your best work bud will do so much more than saving you a bagel on bagel Fridays, reminding you to pick up your keys, or pouring you a glass of the aged whiskey before the happy hour ends.
Most importantly, they will have your back when the going gets tough and you are badly in need of a little appreciation. Try all you like, you may never get Marinda from finance to answer your emails without a dozen follow-ups. But what you can do about it is rant in front of your office BFF how Marinda should take a course in Email Etiquette 101.
When you get overlooked for that promotion you know you deserved, she will be there to console you and remind you of how you are better than that Jess! While your spouse, significant other, or your family would patiently listen to you prattle on and on about your workday, it is your work wife who will actually share in your amazement or amusement.
4. She Will Relieve Your Stress
Humans, women in particular, are hardwired to connect with others. A study shows that in stressful situations, women yearn for connections while men shy away from emotions and instead resort to their fight or flight tendencies. When women don’t get that meaningful connection, this stress can take a toll on their mental and physical health. So, next time you are breaking a sweat, head over to the coffee machine for a venting session with your work wife.
5. She Lets You Be Yourself
You may have the coolest boss in the world but that doesn’t mean that you divulge the smallest details of your life in front of them. In your effort to act professional in front of your colleagues and bosses, you probably hold back some silly. But with your work wife, you can finally put off all masks and be who you are. Want to moan your ex’s engagement status on Facebook? Vent about what your spouse did this morning? Or Stress about the fact that you are behind on your mortgage payments? It’s often the little things that make a difference when you’re working a lot of hours, are nervous about a new role, or stressing about a big project.
Making Workplace Friendships Work For Organizations
If you want workplace friendships to prove fruitful for your bottom line, you need to promote a culture of open dialogue. Encourage your employees to speak out, contribute according to their skills, and chip in on brain-storming sessions. If some of your employees aren’t comfortable speaking up in groups, draw them out and hold private sessions with them. Such a culture would allow employees to work hand-in-hand with each other to meet common objectives. In addition, this would also help them be their true selves around their peers.
On the other hand, if you stifle transparent communication or hamper the flow of creative ideas, your co-workers are more likely to spend their time gossiping about the management instead of helping each other boost engagement. As they continue to engage in rants over a disorganized management, their negative views of the company will be further cemented. Such a toxic workplace is a petri dish of unhappiness, where negativity fosters and thrives. If you want employee friendships to work in your favor, your team needs to trust and believe in your business enough to want to inspire each other to try harder.