Career Coach: Friends at Work

Nurture relationships at the office.

The Office’s Michael Scott may not be who most people would consider a great leader, but he showed some insight into how to lead a team when he said this: “Would I rather be feared or loved? Umm … easy, both. I want people to be afraid of how much they love me.”

Michael was onto something: A 2018 study by the Gallup Organization found that people who had at least one friend in the workplace were more likely to be satisfied in their role and engaged with their team.

Just as you would with any relationship in your life, you need to take the time to nurture relationships with colleagues, earning their trust and respect. With this foundation, you can more easily open the door for clear communication and accountability. The best leaders want their team members to feel that they should pursue achievements not only because of their own hopes and dreams but also because of a desire to help the group succeed.

To deepen your work relationships, try to identify personal strengths and goals in your team members. Look for ways to support them in leveraging their strengths and meeting and exceeding their goals.

Doing this means committing a significant amount of time to getting to know and understand your colleagues and ensuring they know you care about them, both as individuals and as valued team members. By showing respect for differences and appreciation for them as people and as colleagues, you will deepen your connection, while still maintaining professional and personal boundaries.

Carol Vernon is a certified career coach and principal of Communication Matters. Email:

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Carol Vernon

By Carol Vernon


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