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How Work Friends Help You Grow, Adapt, and Get Things Done

Work Friends

When the people on your team don’t get along, things can get dicey quick.

You can’t force friendship among your hires (or your recruits), but you can do a lot to encourage it. And you should! Why?

When we like the people we work with, we get more done and we go a lot further than we could otherwise hope to. (Not just because it cuts down on complaining time.)

In this episode of The Podcast Nancy Tobler, PhD gives us a plain English walk through of the academic research into work friendships.

Listen in to learn:

  • Why do we work better when we’re working with friends?
  • How do friends improve each other’s performance?
  • And what can leaders do to help their people bond?

Full Transcript

Kenny Rawlins: Hello and welcome to The Podcast. I’m your host, Kenny Rawlins. And today we continue our series with Nancy Tobler on engagement with both employees and distributors. Hello, Nancy.

Nancy Tobler: Hi. How are you doing?

Kenny Rawlins: Good. So, I’m just going to let you dive in on this and give us a little background about what we’re going to be discussing today.

Nancy Tobler: Okay, so I always like to say you know a startling statistic. That’s my public speaking background. I like to start with a startling statistic.

You spend more than a third (or at least a third) of your day with work relationships.

You spend a third of your day sleeping.

There is another third you spend commuting.

And there’s some research that suggests, if you have a teenage child, you only spend 15 minutes a day with that teenage child, speaking one on one. So.

Kenny Rawlins: Wow.

Nancy Tobler: Relationships at work are huge. They’re a big part of who we are.

How Do We Define Relationships?

Nancy Tobler: I thought the other thing I oughta do before we get too far into this is define what a relationship is. A relationship is a situation where you have the ability to adapt your behavior to the unique characteristics of the other person as well as to the unique characteristics of the relationship with that other person.

So, let’s get it out there early on: You can have bad relationships and good relationships.

Kenny Rawlins: Right.

Nancy Tobler: You might adapt your behavior to a bad relationship just as much as you do a good relationship. It’s still a relationship.

But we’re going to talk about good relationships today. How those help you in your work.

Kenny Rawlins: And the benefit that comes from them in the work place. Right?

Nancy Tobler: And by definition, friendships or relationships are mutually beneficial. If it’s one sided, people soon go [indistinguishable grumble]. Right?

They grumble, they say, “No thank you. Too much work. This is too much work, this relationship. It’s one sided.”

So, yeah.

What’s Not Really A Relationship?

Kenny Rawlins: And, just real quick, I want to talk about what you said to lead off there, which is that for it to be a relationship, you’ve got to adapt because of what you know about the person. Right? So, even if you interact with somebody regularly, if you don’t know enough about them to adapt, you’re not really having a relationship.

Nancy Tobler: The fact that you talk to the same coffee person at Starbucks every morning, you don’t have a relationship with them unless you know enough about them to know they don’t like to make pumpkin lattes. It makes them nauseous. You got to know enough and have enough experiences together. Plus, it has to be mutually beneficial. How are you benefiting the person behind the counter? You’re not.

Kenny Rawlins: Yeah.

Nancy Tobler: They’re doing it because they’re paid. Somebody is paid to be with you. It’s not a relationship.

Kenny Rawlins: Yeah. I will ask that question though, and then I know you’ve got more to dig into. But, with a distributor and a company, can they actually have a relationship? I guess that is mutually beneficial, you want them to buy your product, they want you to have the products sell. So, I guess that one…you can eventually…

Nancy Tobler: Yeah. You can have what I like to call pseudo relationships. Right? When Delta Airlines sends me a letter in the mail saying how they love having me as a customer. And they’d like to give me fifty dollars on the next flight.

Kenny Rawlins: Yeah.

Nancy Tobler: That sounds like we’re in a relationship, but we’re not.

Kenny Rawlins: Right.

Nancy Tobler: You’re pretending. You’re talking to me like we have a relationship with each other, but we don’t.

MLMs Are More into Relationships Than The Average Company

But in MLM, if we’re talking about distributors and companies, you have at least top distributors who the company adapts for them. And the distributor adapts for the company.

So, there is that mutual influence on each other, as well as mutual benefit.

Kenny Rawlins: Yeah.

Nancy Tobler: So, yeah, I would say that MLM’s are probably one of the few industries that I can think of where people outside of the company actually have a relationship.

Kenny Rawlins: Okay. Well let’s…yeah, I know that you’ve done a little bit of research. Yeah. And let’s talk about it.

Nancy Tobler: Yes, so it hasn’t been researched a lot.

We’ve researched a lot about leaders and followers. We’ve talked about that in the leadership podcast.

But this is people and they don’t have to be at the same level, you can have friendships with people who are over you. It all depends on the person. Some people can’t separate friendship and work.

Kenny Rawlins: Right.

Nancy Tobler: Some people can.

Six Benefits of Positive Work Relationships

Nancy Tobler: But, work relationships—according to some research I found, relatively recently in 2016—they have about six functions. So, I thought we’d talk about what relationships do for people and then I’ll try to do—well, you help me out here too, but—we’ll try to talk about both: how that happens internally inside of companies and how distributors can do that.

1. They Help You Get Work Done

Nancy Tobler: So, the first one is that friendships—positive relationships—help you get work done. That you get more work done if you’re working with friends.

Well… You can be too friendly [laughter], then you don’t get anything done. There is a… There’s a curve. Right? There’s a point at which it drops off significantly. But, up to a point, if you’re really comfortable with the other person, they just work harder. They do more.

Kenny Rawlins: Yeah, I’ve seen this actually kind of both ways personally.

I’ve seen people who they come to work with somebody who—they get a job through a friend essentially. And then they’re a little too comfortable to start. And they’re not—you know it’s kind of like, “he’ll let this slide,”

But then, especially when you develop the friendship at work. I think that’s a lot of times when it becomes the most—yeah, it kind of enables you to do your best work. Right? Where it helps you get stuff done.

Nancy Tobler: Yeah. And they’ll literally step in when you’re overwhelmed. Right?

Kenny Rawlins: Right.

Nancy Tobler: This is an amazing thing.

So, as a distributor, if you’ve got a hundred people at an event, someone you have a relationship with will step in and say, “Okay, let me take 50 of them to the room next door. I’ll work with those 50, you work with these 50.”

They just they see the need. And they jump in and try to help.

Plus, you can call on them if they don’t jump in. You can say, “Hey, Kenny, will you take 50? Go next door. Let’s see if we can’t get people through this new app we’re deploying.”

Kenny Rawlins: Right. Yeah, yeah, that makes sense.

Nancy Tobler: And that is associated with job satisfaction. So, having people at work who help you means you rate your job satisfaction higher.

2. They Help You Advance In Your Career

Career advancement? So, friends will watch internally and externally for career advancement. We didn’t talk about this one in direct selling out as distributors, but distributors do help each other advance.

Kenny Rawlins: This is one that I can see even—almost maybe arguably even more—in the distributor field than even internally, because rank advancement is so public. Right? And so, it’s something that you can help push somebody towards and help them. And so, yeah, I definitely see that.

And you see a lot of celebrating of that. When somebody gets a new rank advancement, people make a big deal of it.

Nancy Tobler: Yeah. And that’s one of the ways that organizations can facilitate relationships at work is by celebrating. We even do minor celebrations more frequently. Like the rank advancement ones. And those can be as powerful as celebrations where it’s once a year.

Kenny Rawlins: Right.

Nancy Tobler: And they’ll celebrate the top 100 or whatever.

Kenny Rawlins: Right.

Nancy Tobler: Yeah. And that also has association with job satisfaction. So, if people are looking out for your career, you’re more satisfied with your job.

3. They Give You Emotional Support

The third one is one that there’s been a ton of research on, and that’s emotional support. Again, I think this comes down to—we spend a third of our day with these people every day. And if we’re going through a divorce or we have someone die or our car is wrecked over the weekend. Right?

Kenny Rawlins: Right.

Nancy Tobler: These friends want to know that something bad is happening to you and they want to provide you with emotional support. So, it’s very strong.

And I think you can see that in distributors as well as inside of companies.

We talked about this before, but 75 percent of direct sellers are women. And that emotional support is something they seek.

They don’t want you to solve the problem. They just want you to listen to the problem and say they understand. That they’re there for you, whatever you need, even though you don’t want them to solve it.

Yeah. So, emotional support is a huge area for relationships at work.

Kenny Rawlins: Well, so, this one I kind of, as I’m thinking about it, find it a little bit fascinating, just because of the world we live in where so much is done online and so much is done remotely and with kind of large conglomerates. Or, if you live in a big city, you know, the people you encounter every day aren’t necessarily people you know that well. And that’s where I can see this being even more valuable in the place that you work. Or, that’s where I can really see MLM filling a void. Right?

A lot of times these people are looking for a community to be a part of.

Nancy Tobler: Right. Absolutely right. If they don’t have a religious community… Religion Used to fulfill that for a lot of people but it doesn’t anymore.

You used to live in the same neighborhood that your parents and grandparents and great grandparents lived. So, everybody knew each other. And that community was a community, not like we call communities today.

Kenny Rawlins: Right.

Nancy Tobler: Yeah, so that emotional support…

And I don’t want to bash technology, you know—InfoTrax is a great technology company and they do a lot of relationship things through technology—but there is a lot to say for someone giving you that pat on the back or that hug that has huge relational benefit.

Touch makes us feel better, as long as it’s appropriate touch, [laugher] we don’t want to be going anywhere where it’s scary. But touch… It’s instinctual. Babies have to be touched from the moment they are born.

Kenny Rawlins: Yeah.

Nancy Tobler: We even have people go into ICU now where they didn’t before and touch babies, just touch them. It’s so crucial.

And I think that the people you work with—they’re not only going to say, “I’m so sorry that sucks.” They’re going to say, “You want a hug?” And you’re going to hug. Right? It’s just incredibly powerful. It’s hard to say how much you can measure that.

Kenny Rawlins: Well, and it’s interesting, I’ve got friends and have worked with people before that work remotely almost exclusively.

Nancy Tobler: Yeah.

Kenny Rawlins: And I’ve known people who have looked for new jobs simply because they were tired of working remotely. Because they like the interaction that comes day in and day out with being in the same location.

Nancy Tobler: Yeah.

Kenny Rawlins: And so, yeah, I think, like you say, people crave that.

Nancy Tobler: Oh yeah, it’s essential. Especially if you go home to yourself. Right? So, if you work by yourself and then you’re at home by yourself, that is a lot of alone time.

Kenny Rawlins: Yeah.

Nancy Tobler: You gotta get out to a lot of bars to make up for that.

4. They Help You Grow As A Person

Nancy Tobler: The next one is personal growth. And I had a hard time thinking about how friends at work help you with personal growth. I think you can clearly see it in distributor situations.

Those other distributors in your group really help you. They help you learn public speaking and they help you learn how to keep track of your miles. They help you learn how to run a business. How to do marketing.

They do all kinds of personal growth kinds of things… I guess that’s more business growth. Let’s talk about personal growth.

Personal growth is things where you—I think we talked about this before—if you feel comfortable with who you are, if you have a good self-esteem, you have fewer conflicts. Right?

So, personal growth is—your self-esteem is improving. Right? Your exercise is improving.

So, personal, not work, growth. But we do do work growth. But that was number one.

Kenny Rawlins: Yeah, and I’ve even seen, in different places, either through friends or co-workers, I’ve seen people do like diet groups where they do meal planning together, or I’ve seen people do gym groups. I’ve seen where people invite co-workers to, like, a class or an external activity that they wouldn’t otherwise do.

Nancy Tobler: Right.

Kenny Rawlins: And they can have personal development through that.

And so, I think there is a lot that, yeah, it tends to spill over. And it’s one more person that’s helping to encourage you and challenge you in a way that maybe you wouldn’t otherwise be encouraged or challenged.

Nancy Tobler: Yeah, yeah.

Kenny Rawlins: And, you know, you also see it where you get people that, you know—and this might not be as much personal development—but almost like…

Yeah, it’s one more person to listen to you or give you advice in your personal life. Right? People you work with may not know the people in the rest of your personal life. And so, you can almost talk to them in a way that you wouldn’t talk to other people and they can get you feedback.

Nancy Tobler: Yeah.

Kenny Rawlins: So, yeah, it is an interesting element to it.

5. They Become Friendships

Nancy Tobler: Yeah. So, the next one is friendship, and we need friends. Right. If we feel like we don’t have friends at work, people often will go somewhere else.

Kenny Rawlins: Right.

Nancy Tobler: I don’t know if you remember back to when we interviewed Todd Eliason from Direct Selling News. He said that there’s a huge number of people who, within the first year, will look for another job.

Well, I got to thinking about that. I thought, “Why would you look for another job. What a horrible thing to have to. You just got a job. You went through all that damage to your self-esteem with rejections and you got a new job. Why would you turn right around and do another one?”

I think it’s relationships.

Kenny Rawlins: Right.

Nancy Tobler: I think it’s—you don’t have friendships. Takes a year. Right? I always say it takes a year to get to know people at a workplace. Yeah. It takes a year for you to know your job. And it just takes a year for you to get friendships, so you can adapt to each other, so you have history together, all of that.

Kenny Rawlins: Yeah.

Nancy Tobler: So, we need friends. They’re voluntary. You have to think about it, right, your family is not voluntary. You didn’t get to choose them [laughter]. You Have an Uncle Jed. You didn’t get to choose him. You got him, he’s yours, baby.

You don’t get to choose them. And so, there’s an element of connection to family that has a little bit of inherent strain to it, right. Because you can’t easily get out of it.

Kenny Rawlins: Right.

Nancy Tobler: But you talk about friendships. They are totally voluntary, and you chose it. And that has incredible power. So those friendships just—they just make your life smoother. Your life satisfaction is just higher.

Kenny Rawlins: That’s interesting. Yeah, I never really thought about, yeah, kind of that inherent strain that comes with that.

Nancy Tobler: Because you can’t walk out! Well, I mean, you can, but you’re a jerk. [laughter]

Kenny Rawlins: There’s a higher barrier. There’s a certain amount of…yeah.

Nancy Tobler: You don’t want to be a jerk.

6. They Inspire A Giving Spirit

Nancy Tobler: So, the last one is that friendships at work help you give to others.

And, you know, this is sort of off the work again. Right? Where someone has a tragedy happen to them, a group of friends will get together and do flowers and chocolate and send a card or whatever. Right? It has nothing to do with work. But we know you’re going through something.

That’s that emotional support, that we’ll give to that other person, somehow.

Thinking about distributors doing that… I think distributors—if you go back to the Xyngular podcast we did—just talking about designing their giving program to be about local need. That is really sort of banking on friendship. Right? Banking on that people have friends and that those friends might have need and we are going to help them.

Kenny Rawlins: Right.

How to Encourage and Facilitate Work Relationships

Nancy Tobler: So, the last thing I thought we’d talk about is just things that organizations can do to facilitate relationships.

I think MLMs are really good at this. Right?

1. Create Opportunities For Bonding

Nancy Tobler: The conventions are all about bonding. The weekly meetings that you have with your team, that’s all about bonding. Not just about getting the business part done, but [about] renewing that friendship every week.

But there’s other celebrations I looked at—a couple of DSN companies that were best places to work.

AdvoCare does a Thanksgiving tenure dinner, which I thought was interesting. Right? Every year they have a Thanksgiving dinner and they give special recognition to people who’ve been there a certain number of years. So, they specifically call people out and express gratitude and that’s all relationship building.

I mean you give them a backpack or 50 bucks or whatever.

But that calling them up, saying, “thank you for being here for 10 years. You do these things and making that very specific.” That’s about relationship building. Right?

Because it’s not just the person who’s doing the award giving. That’s not the relationship [I’m talking about]. That can be part of the relationship that’s built.

But what happens is you as an audience member now know that that person—Frank, or whoever it is—went above and beyond, and they went above and beyond in a way that you would have gone above and beyond. So, you develop a history with people.

2. Enable Your People To Develop A Shared History

History is huge. Right? I don’t know how to tell you… the number of little interactions that add up to create your history in a relationship… It creates patterns that can get just ingrained very quickly.

So, celebrations are huge.

You can do regular activities. I was just thinking of a few that InfoTrax does: the office lunch, fantasy football, March Madness.

All those things that you just do. Week in, week out. They give people time to talk, just to talk. Not to talk about work, but just to talk. To talk about what’s going on in the world. To talk about what’s going on in their families. All of that.

Kenny Rawlins: Yeah.

3. Group And Regroup Your People

Nancy Tobler: And then the last thing I had was that putting people in teams and changing up teams all of that. Sort of thinking about teams, but thinking about teams not just as they’re going to make a goal but that if you work in a team, and you rely on each other, inherently, when you help each other, you’re going to build that friendship relationship.

It’s almost impossible not to.

Kenny Rawlins: Right.

Nancy Tobler: To spend a year on a project with a group. You now know. “Oh, I can go to this person. They’re absolutely right on top of that kind of thing.” You know who to ask now, even if you’re in a whole new team—

Kenny Rawlins: Yeah.

Nancy Tobler: —after that, those group of people—well, you either have a bad relationship or a good relationship come out of teamwork. Right? I don’t want to say, inherently, just because you spent time together, you’re going to love each other. That’s not true. But you will love some of them.

Kenny Rawlins: Right.

Nancy Tobler: And those people you carry with you forever. It’s as long as you’re with that company. I mean some people are really good at maintaining work relationships after they leave an organization but not very many of us. Most of us leave our work friends behind.

Kenny Rawlins: Gotcha.

Nancy Tobler: At least I do.

Kenny Rawlins: Yeah.

Kenny Rawlins: I don’t I don’t keep them from one job to the next!

Kenny Rawlins: Yeah. That makes sense! Yeah it is interesting to think about.

Nancy Tobler: Some people do. Some people are really good at that. I’m not one of them.

Kenny Rawlins: Yeah that’s not, not my strength either.

Good for The Office, Good for The Field—And The In-between

Kenny Rawlins: So, I mean we’ve talked a lot about how this affects both distributors and employees. And I think, even more as we’ve been discussing it than when we were preparing for this, I’ve realized that, yeah, those—I can’t think of any of those areas where it doesn’t apply for the distributor field as well.

And then you’ve got it being fulfilled in two ways. Right? I mean distributors to distributors is a way that a lot of this happens, but at most companies I’ve seen they do tend to build a relationship with someone. Once you get to a certain level you build a relationship with someone in corporate. And I think that goes a long way.

Nancy Tobler: Yeah. And it’s a real relationship because mutual adaptation occurs. Distributors change for employees and employees change for distributors. They call in. They didn’t make rank. They didn’t make their minimum PV. You might waive that a month.

Kenny Rawlins: Or let them place an order after the month’s closed.

Nancy Tobler: Right. I mean, thinking about, again, Xyngular, where in Puerto Rico they just, just waived all of their personal volume requirements, for, I don’t know, some series, some number of months.

Kenny Rawlins: Yeah.

Nancy Tobler: That’s adaptation, that’s relationship.

People Are Hungry for Relationships

Kenny Rawlins: Yeah, yeah. And that is, that is one of the areas that I think—I mean we touch on this over and over again, but there are some real strengths to the way that network marketing is done. And we see MLMs adapt, especially as the world becomes larger, and relationships are fewer and farther between. They’re filling a real void.

Nancy Tobler: Well, think about it, right. I’m writing an article on the gig economy. Right? And some people have suggested that direct selling numbers in the U.S. are going down because the gig economy is going up.

Kenny Rawlins: Yeah.

Nancy Tobler: Well, why would a woman join an MLM as opposed to being an Uber driver? There’s no social interaction in an Uber driver. Well there’s the one with the person behind you in the seat, but that’s not a relationship. That’s a, that’s…

Kenny Rawlins: An encounter.

Nancy Tobler: An encounter. Right? You had a pleasant encounter and that makes us feel good. But relationships with people matter. Right? I don’t want to I don’t want to bash men in any way, but I think relationships are particularly ingrained in how women seek out their world.

Kenny Rawlins: Right.

Nancy Tobler: Right? They just, they just need them.

Kenny Rawlins: Right.

Nancy Tobler: They need more of them, it seems like. And men have relationships, they just do them differently.

Kenny Rawlins: Right.

Nancy Tobler: But women want lots of relationships and they have lots of relationships.

Kenny Rawlins: Yeah.

Nancy Tobler: And they keep lots of relationships. And they’re often the relationship guardian in your—if your couple. Right?

They’re the ones that know when someone’s birthday is. They’re the ones that know that they don’t eat gluten. They keep track of all that relational knowledge, right, which the other partner says, “Yeah, thanks. I appreciate ya letting me know. Thanks for reminded me it was their birthday.”

Kenny Rawlins: Yeah.

Nancy Tobler: So, anyway, I think there’s a draw to MLMs still, for women, because it teaches them how to be business people. But it also helps them personally grow and it provides friendships that they just—they just need.

Kenny Rawlins: Yeah! Well, and I think we’ll end it there, cause, yeah, I think you’re exactly right.

Nancy Tobler: Great.

Kenny Rawlins: Well thank you Nancy.

Nancy Tobler: Thank you.

Kenny Rawlins: Okay. That does it for this episode of the Podcast by InfoTrax Systems. I’m your host, Kenny Rawlins. I’m grateful to Nancy for taking the time to join us today. We also want to thank Jana Bangerter for production support, and you our listeners. We hope you’ll join us again next time!

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