Best friend at work? Just have my back.

The Gallup 12 is a well-known set of questions used to gauge employee engagement. Many of the questions are tied to whether an employee understands how he/she contributes to the organization’s goals, has a chance to do what he/she does best, and whether or not someone has expressed interest in his/her development. You know, the usual.

But there’s one question on the 12 that tends to throw people for a loop – #10 – I have a best friend at work. Best friend? Who the heck cares if you have a best friend at work? You’re there to work, not join a knitting club.  Right?  Turns out it’s not quite that simple.

keyboard and two persons on white background

When you start to look into the question (for an excellent overview on the Gallup 12, read 12: The Elements of Great Managing), the reality is that employees are not looking to find their lifelong BFF at work.  What they are looking for is the “go to” work friend – someone they can talk with when things get crazy, share their frustrations and victories with, or even as simple as someone with whom they can go to lunch.

This person is your “work wife”, “work husband”…this person is your safety net.  In terms of employee engagement, this person is an “anchor” – just like a manager, the job itself, the culture…something that keeps you in the game, motivating you to give discretionary effort to your work.

What if it wasn’t a friend that you really want?  What if you just want someone to have your back when things go south?

Let’s face it – work just sucks sometimes. Deadlines shift, approvals rescinded, coworkers annoy. We need to vent.  We need to take risks. We need to rock the boat. We need to know we can go complain to someone who won’t “report you” or feel the need to act in an official capacity. That’s what Question #10 is all about – knowing that you can take a chance and someone will be there to support you.

The great thing about Question #10 is that it is position agnostic – it doesn’t matter if you are a manager, an individual contributor, entry level or executive.  Each of us has the potential to have each other’s back. So instead of being a jerk, or making a joke, or rolling your eyes – just listen.  Offer support.  Have someone’s back.

You might be surprised by the difference you can make.

Efforts vs. Results: Do employees know the difference?

I recently read an article  day that referenced an infographic featuring the following statistic:

Nearly half (49 percent) of employees in a survey revealed that they would leave their current job for a company that recognized employees for their efforts and their contributions.

Really.  Nearly HALF of all employees would leave their job.

I know I’m cynical, but that seems awfully high, especially in a volatile economy.  So I reframed that statement (because I’m in HR and I know what reframing is), and I started thinking about whether or not the average employee would define recognition-worthy effort the same way management would.  I came to the following conclusion…

I don’t think they would.

In my career, I’ve been a part of many a performance review process, helping managers and employees alike understand why we do them, how we do them, and what the different ratings mean.  And it never fails that there is a severe disconnect between what the employee sees a extra effort and what the manager would call DOING YOUR JOB.


Here’s a quick reminder for employees about the difference:


  • Showing up on time every day
  • Completing your work by the assigned deadline and in a quality manner
  • Being a decent human being to coworkers


  • Teaching others to do their jobs better
  • Identifying a more efficient way to do a task
  • Going above and beyond for a customer

Really, it’s about the difference between EFFORT and RESULTS.  Effort is good – managers want to see effort.  It’s an indicator that employees give a damn.  But guess what – results pay the bills, which means managers are more likely to recognize employees whose efforts yield results.  As an employee, I need to be aware of what will benefit the business and ensure my work is truly “value add.”  And I also need to communicate what I’m doing to my manager to ensure I’m aligned with his/her expectations.

Managers, you’re not off the hook for this one.  If your employees feel like you don’t notice their efforts, that’s on you.  It’s your job to give clear expectations for results and to provide meaningful feedback to your employees year-round. Too often managers are afraid to have a difficult conversation, telling employees “that was a a darn good try” all year…only to rate them lower in the annual review because nothing got done.  On the other hand, things come up that are out of the employee’s control that can keep their efforts from yielding the expected results.  So be a human being and acknowledge that.

Lack of recognition by managers is a real problem in many organizations, and it CAN lead to employees wanting to leave for a better job.  I also think misconstrued ideas of what recognition should look like leads to unrealistic employee expectations.

What do you think? Are employees being greatly unappreciated? Are managers being unfairly maligned for not rewarding employees for just showing up?  Share your thoughts in the comments.