Friendship is defined as “affection arising from mutual esteem and goodwill” (Mirriam-Webster). Words associated with the term friendship include alliance, benevolence, and kindliness.
Sadly, more than 300 million people report not having a single friend, and more than 20% of people do not have a friend or family member to rely on (Clifton, 2022). Almost two-thirds of people at work perceived their peers as “coworkers” or “strangers,” leaving one-third of individuals to be referred to as “friends.” Within this small percentage, only 15% of the one-third stated individuals have true friendships that are vital outside of the work setting (Wood, 2019).
The importance of a work-best friend
Nurse educators increasingly report elevated levels of stress, anxiety, exhaustion, and burnout (Halverson, K, 2021). Peer collaboration and cooperation are essential in preventing or addressing these concerns. A friend at work provides a safe person to talk to, to address those concerns. It also provides a way to explore and accept feedback regarding items such as implementing new learning strategies, writing exam questions, or even thinking about the next stress-reducing adventure outside of the classroom. Our work best friend can lift us when we need to talk—both personally and professionally. They hold us accountable to be the very best version of ourselves. Finding a friend in your work colleague can make life more enjoyable, which can eventually benefit the students we teach.
Having an individual you can trust within your field of work creates an environment of success and pride. Trust in the workplace is essential and is a mutual obligation between coworkers (Hungerford & Cleary, 2022). The ability to be vulnerable and have your person there to provide feedback on your work and ideas can be a great benefit to all. This trust allows an individual to accept and understand the positive (and at times negative) critique. By working together and developing a positive sense of trust in a supportive or leading role, success can be identified and celebrated.
When you have a trusted colleague, you can rely on honest feedback. When you are in a vulnerable situation, you can count on your trusted colleague to encourage you and root for you. As we would say, “Be honest and don’t hold back—tell me the truth and give me that feedback.” Only in a truly trusting relationship would one give such power to another where differing opinions can be shared without fear of hurt feelings.
Having mutual respect for one another allows us to celebrate our unique traits, embrace the things we have in common, and identify each other’s unique strengths. The mutual respect given allows each individual to know and understand personal worth and value. Mutual respect is trusting in action. Altering ideas and conflict can be healthy, and the conversations that ensue will be extremely beneficial to both partners. Honest conversations promote the development of trust, which is a vital part of any close interpersonal relationship.
Laughing like a bowl full of jelly
Clement Clarke Moore described a laughing Santa Claus by saying that his “belly shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly.” He used one of the most beloved characters in the world to point out the importance of laughter and how it can correlate to happiness and job satisfaction. In Case Management Monthly (2019), they state that laughter is a way to prevent burnout and can be used to decrease stress and promote a sense of well-being. All of us know how much better we feel after good belly laughs with a friend, especially when at work.
Peanut butter to my jelly
Some things just make life better when they are in tandem. One example is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Sometimes, there is more peanut butter on the sandwich, sometimes there is more jelly, and sometimes it is equal in content. Just like a PB&J sandwich, in a friendship, there are times when you are in the background supporting your friend, and other days, you are at the forefront of a big project or presentation while your supportive friend is close at hand. A friend at work who is genuine and supportive, one with whom you can laugh or cry, is everything. Just like a PB&J sandwich that will taste good and provide comfort, that friendship will provide the comfort that one needs during these stressful times in education and healthcare. When years have passed, and you and your work friend may no longer work at the same facility, you still appreciate your friendship. Even to this day, almost 15 years since meeting the peanut butter to our jelly, we cannot imagine our personal and professional lives without our friendship.
Friends are like peanut butter and jelly – they always stick together (author unknown).
Dr. Maureen Hermann earned her BSN (1995), MSN (2011), and DNP (2016), with an emphasis in leadership from Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing in Peoria, IL. Dr. Maureen Hermann currently works as an assistant professor in the Department of Nursing at Bradley University, Peoria, IL.
Cj Wright-Boon earned from Bradley University in 1996 and her MSN from St. Francis Medical Center College of Nursing in 2008. She is an assistant professor at SFMCCON and also serves as the coordinator for the Academic Support Center.
Avoiding burnout: Strategies to keep you inspired at work (2019). Case Management Monthly, 16(7), 2-4.
Clifton, J. (2022). The power of work friends. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2022/10/the-power-of-work-friends
Halverson, K. (2021). Sailing in the winds of change: Navigating the future of nursing education. Journal of Nursing Education, 60(12), 661-667.
Hungerford, C. & Cleary, M. (2020). High trust and low trust workplace settings: Implications for our mental health and well-being, Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 42(5), 506-514.
Mirriam-Webster (n.d.). Friendship. Retrieved from https://www.webster-dictionary.org/definition/Friendship
Wood, J. (2019). Why it’s good to turn your colleagues into friends. World Economic Forum. Retrieved from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/11/friends-relationships-work-productivity-career/
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