People might think that some Q12 items are unusual to ask—or are even not suited for—the workplace. One of the most controversial Q12 items is the “best friend” item.
Gallup’s research indicates that friendships are vital to happiness, achievement, and engagement. If you have a best friend at work, you are significantly more likely to engage your fellow team members, partners, and internal customers. You are more likely to get more done in less time, have fun on the job, have a safe work environment with fewer accidents, innovate and share ideas, feel informed and know that your opinions count, and have an opportunity to focus on your strengths each day. Without a best friend at work, the chances of your being engaged in your job are one in 12.
People often challenge the “best friend” item by saying, “I have only one best friend. I’ve known this person for 25 years, and they do not work at this organization. How can I answer this item favorably?” Keep in mind that the item says, “I have a best friend at work.” Meaning, there is a person at work you would consider a best friend. Two explanations clarify why this item is necessary for measuring the engagement level of supervisors and employees—a research-based explanation and a theoretical explanation.
The Research-Based Explanation
Gallup tried wording this item in different ways, such as replacing the word “best” with “close” or “good.” However, the research showed that no other wording variations worked as well as “best friend.” Gallup tested this item, as it did all items, using different wording to determine which words correlated best with positive answers from high-performing teams. Repeatedly, Gallup found that many people on highly productive teams answered this item favorably when using the wording, “I have a best friend at work.” On the other hand, Gallup found that people on teams with average productivity answered this item less favorably. Gallup’s research shows that the “best friend” item links strongly to creativity, client and partnership metrics, and financial responsibility within teams.
The Theoretical Explanation
Think about the people whom you consider your friends. They entertain you, and you like being around them. Think about the people whom you consider best friends. Your best friends share similar values with you. By working with people with whom you share values, you know that you can trust them. Best friends will catch you if you fall. Best friends watch out for you. Having best friends around, you are more confident in making decisions and taking risks and are more productive because you don’t have to watch your back. Chances are, you feel like there is more open communication within your team when people have best friends. “I have a best friend at work” is a proxy for trust, indicating the extent to which trusting relationships exist within a team.