Best Friend at Work

By Bob McCann, MRAA Lead MICD Program Consultant

Think about your workplace for a few minutes, and imagine a stressful day – we all have them now and again. Think for a second about when that stress bubbles up, who at work do you run to? Who do you vent to? From whom do you seek the most honest advice?

Image of Bob McCann of the MRAA dressed in white button-up dress shirt in front of greenery in Minnesota
Bob McCann

On the flip side, when you have a successful sale, conquer a difficult meeting or achieve a milestone in your career, who at work do you celebrate with first? Is it the same person as you sought when you were down?

If that person didn’t work with you any longer, would it dramatically impact your work day, your career, how you take on wins and mourn losses? If there is one person you’re imaging now, or even a couple close confidants, you’ve uncovered a best friend at work.

Employee Satisfaction Survey

The Employee Satisfaction Survey (ESS), which MRAA fields to all Certified Dealers on an annual basis, proves to be one of the valuable components of the Certified Dealership program. It provides insights into the culture, the work environment, the leadership and the employee morale at hundreds of dealerships each year. In fact, we have collected more than 20,000 individual responses since MRAA began running the survey in 2014.

Of all the value that the ESS delivers, it asks one question that has proven quite controversial over the years: Do you have a best friend at work? 

Candidly, even as the Lead Certification Consultant, I, myself, have been challenged with the idea of this question being asked. Why? Because my best friend doesn’t work with me! So, this question has been a dilemma for me because while I had personal feelings related to it, the dealerships themselves — who typically see the lowest scores of their entire survey representing this question — have debated the question for years. In fact, we just got another complaint about it on Tuesday.

Gallup Rationale

The truth of the matter is that MRAA used Gallup’s list of employee engagement questions to formulate the majority of the ESS. (Gallup, a global workplace analytics company, by the way, states on its “About Us” page that “We know more about the will of employees, customers, students and citizens than anyone in the world. We know what matters most to them at work and in life and how those priorities change over time. And we use that knowledge to create transformation.”)

Gallup’s rationale (which our team at MRAA subscribes to) for including this question “Do you have a best friend at work?” is simply because their research of hundreds of thousands of people shows that having a best friend at work is key to high levels of employee engagement and job success. Positive scores for having a best friend at work are strongly linked to stronger business outcomes, including profitability, safety and retention.

According to Gallup, employees who have a best friend at work are significantly more likely to:

  • Engage customers and internal partners
  • Get more done in less time
  • Support a safe workplace with fewer accidents and reliability concerns
  • Innovate and share ideas
  • Have fun while at work

Who doesn’t want to work at this place?!

So those data points are great and pretty convincing, but it was something different that convinced me that this was the right question.

The survey does not ask, “Do you work with your best friend?” It’s not talking about that one person who you consider your absolute best friend. It’s worded to say, “a best friend.” In other words, do you work with someone you would enjoy hanging out with after hours, at a happy hour or some other event. I, like most dealers who dislike this question, was thinking of one person! One best friend.

I realized I have best friend-type friends beyond my one-and-only best friend. Friends that you can trust, someone you share the positives with or who can make you laugh when you’re having a rough day at work. You may have a very supportive partner at home, but a colleague at work will have an even better understanding of the world you work in with more insider knowledge, to understand your viewpoint.

Friends & Best Friends

Unless you work entirely on your own, chances are that you work with at least some other people. Given that we typically spend a huge portion of our time at work, perhaps it’s more important than ever to have friends at work. Would you spend time outside of work with these people? Would you have them over for dinner, or take them out on your boat? Perhaps you do have a “best friend” at work.

One last thing: As Gallup points out, pretty much everyone says they have “a friend” at work, but the word “best” in the sentence – again, the main issue for most dealers – is a differentiator. It’s a determining factor in the highest levels of engagement. Anyone can have a friend at work, someone they’re cordial with, maybe they sit down at a lunch table together with, but a best friend is that person whom they can confidently confide in, share their biggest frustrations with, but also the person they’d hate to abandon for a new opportunity. It’s the person who keeps them happy on a slow day and keeps them on track in the face of burnout. It’s the person who makes coming into work fun, and not just well … work.

Great Dealerships to Work For

As part of the ESS process, dealers not only have their staff take the survey, but they also sit down with their team after receiving the results to celebrate the wins and work as a team on what they can improve. As “Do you have a best friend at work?” is commonly one of the three lowest performing questions, I remind dealers that the survey is a conversation starter because it provides insight to everyone’s opinion on what’s going well and what could be better. If many employees don’t have a best friend at work, maybe what they’re missing is time to get to know each other, and by accommodating that time into the year, you’ll have more best friends at work the next time the survey is run.

As you may or may not know, MRAA uses the ESS scores to rate “Great Dealerships to Work For.” Asking this question, with the word “best” in it helps MRAA differentiate between dealerships with highly engaged employees and the dealerships with less-engaged employees. We all want to be the best at something, and this question, along with the others in the ESS, allows Certified Dealers to truly build the best environment to attract and retain staff.