My office just created a “Fun Committee”, where (I suppose) the purpose is to organize cross-divisional opportunities to meet and network with your colleagues. If you’ve been in the government for a while you may have just internally rolled your eyes at this. “Mandatory fun” can take the form of different events: holiday parties, potlucks, birthday celebrations, wedding/baby showers, etc. As a seasoned professional who has been at an agency for a while, these activities may seem trite, annoying, or just uncomfortable. However for new staff, this may be an intangible but critical factor to keeping them engaged, motivated and improve their productivity.
These events give people, especially new people, the opportunity to meet and talk to coworkers about non-work related items. For example, I had a pretty good rapport with a coworker in another division. At the holiday party I learned that he liked going to concerts with his son, and it so happens that their tastes in music mirror mine. By learning this, we added a dimension to our relationship because we can talk about music and upcoming concerts. To take it a step further, the rapport can build into a genuine friendship. In most of my jobs, I’ve had a “coworker and friend”, someone who I worked with and would socialize with outside of work.
The importance of having a workplace best friend has been documented by Gallup. In 2009, a Gallup study identified that having a workplace best friend are more engaged, are paid appropriately for their work, plan to be with the group one year from now (and are more likely to spend their career with the company). What is interesting to me is those with a workplace best friend were 30% more likely to say that laughter or humor played a positive role in productivity. 
But what if you don’t have a workplace best friend? Workplace best friends are similar to personal best friends in that it takes time for the relationship to grow and develop. Start going to the office events, or just start reaching out and connect with your coworkers. There is an intangible benefit to just being friendly and making your workplace a fun place to be. (For example, the new guys in my office started Bow-Tie Thursdays, which is building camaraderie in the office.)
And what if you do have a workplace best friend? It is still important to reach out and meet new people. As positions, programs or policies change, you will work with different people over time. Just like you probably have more than your best friend in your personal life, you can have more than one or two friends at work. And while it is easier to just stay in your corner and with your friend…challenge yourself to open yourself up to meeting new people. Go to the office events and talk to the new staff member, or even someone you don’t really know that well. You may make a new connection, and in turn you may become a more productive employee.
 Source: Gallup Question on Best Friends: http://www.gallup.com/businessjournal/511/item-10-best-friend-work.aspx
Shivani Sharma is a career Federal employee who has an interest in the role in networking plays in career development and advancement. Throughout her career, she has served as a both a formal and informal mentor at work and has volunteered in career mentorship programs. In 2010 she spearheaded a summer career mentorship program for college students, which is still active today. Finally, this interest has lead to founding a new startup (Lateral-Me, launching Summer 2016) that will increase lateral career opportunities in the Federal government.
She is also part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.
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