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The Official Baldrige Blog

Pain, Friendship, Work Environment, and Hope

Two male co-workers giving a high five with other female and male colleagues cheering them on.
Credit: fizkes/Shutterstock

This past summer, I wrote a blog about the passing away of my best friend of almost 50 years. It was a difficult and painful period for me and I still think of him several times a week when something transpires that would have been a topic of our nightly discussions or typical banter.

This has been a painful period for many of you as well, as we all deal with the consequences of the pandemic and the tragedies related to centuries of social injustice.

One source of strength for me this past summer was the outpouring of love from my many, many friends in the Baldrige community, who contacted me after the blog was published. I will be forever grateful for your caring expressions. The outpouring of love led me to reflect once again on the power of friendship and resulted in my taking another look at some of the studies about the importance and impact of having friends at work. As we begin a new year, permit me to share with you some of that information and make some suggestions for 2021.

Friends at Work

According to Gallup, among the most controversial questions in their 30 years of employee surveying and employee engagement research is their engagement survey question: "Do you have a best friend at work?"  Yet, Gallup research shows a definite link between positive response to that question and the amount of effort employees put into their job. Gallup states  that people want to feel worthwhile at work and having trusted confidants and supporters helps foster that feeling. They find that employees with a best friend at work are seven times as likely to be engaged in their jobs.

Gallup engagement data reveals that only two out of 10 U.S. employees strongly agree that they have a best friend at work. By moving to six in 10, Gallup states that organizations could have:

  • 36% fewer safety incidents
  • 7% more engaged customers, and
  • 12% higher profit

Moving from "best friend" to "close friendship with at least one co-worker," the job-hunting platform Good&Co reports that 65% of employees maintain a close friendship with at least one co-worker. They state:

  • 54% of employers believe strong work relationships improve company culture
  • employees increasingly value a positive work environment nearly as much as good compensation
  • employees who have friends at work are less likely to experience burnout
  • employees who have friends at work are less likely to search for new jobs, and
  • isolated workers tend to harbor negative emotions

Improving the Work Environment

How do you encourage friendships at work? Questions in the Baldrige Excellence Framework items 1.1 on Senior Leadership and 5.2 on Workforce Engagement provide several suggestions for creating a work culture where friendships can develop and thrive. High-performing organizations and their senior leaders:

  • communicate with and engage the entire workforce
  • encourage frank, two-way communication
  • promote and ensure ethical behavior
  • create and reinforce an organizational culture that fosters equity and inclusion
  • cultivate accountability, organizational and personal learning, innovation, and intelligent risk taking
  • manage career development for the entire workforce
  • include reward, recognition, and incentive practices as part of their performance management system


I firmly believe friends help relieve pain and create hope. I believe the Baldrige extended workforce of employees and volunteers are a Baldrige family of people who support each other, as you did for me this summer. I further believe our success is because we have created a culture of inclusivity, clear communication, highly ethical behavior, appreciation and recognition, innovation, accountability, and learning.

While our collective pain of 2020 will not disappear overnight at the start of 2021, I enter the year full of admiration for your friendship and hope for the future. May we all experience peace, health, and joy in 2021! You brighten my life! 

2021-2022 Baldrige Excellence Framework Business/Nonprofit feature image

Baldrige Excellence Framework

The Baldrige Excellence Framework has empowered organizations to accomplish their missions, improve results, and become more competitive. It includes the Criteria for Performance Excellence, core values and concepts, and guidelines for evaluating your processes and results.

Purchase your copy today!

Available versions: Business/Nonprofit, Education, and Health Care

About the author

Harry Hertz “The Baldrige Cheermudgeon”

I am Harry Hertz, the Baldrige Cheermudgeon, and Director Emeritus of the Baldrige Program. I joined the Program in 1992 after a decade in management in the analytical chemistry and chemical sciences laboratories at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the home of the Baldrige Program. I started my career at NIST (NBS) as a bench analytical chemist.

My favorite aspects of the Baldrige Program are: (1) the opportunity to interact with leading thinkers from all sectors of the U.S. economy who serve as volunteers in the Baldrige Program, who participate in the Baldrige Executive Fellows Program, and who represent Award applicants at the forefront of the continuous journey to performance excellence, and (2) the intellectual challenge of synthesizing ideas from leading thinkers and from personal research into Insights on the Road to Performance Excellence and other blogs that tackle challenges at the “leading edge of validated leadership and performance practice,” and contribute to the continuous revision of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Framework.

Outside of work I spend my time with family (including three beautiful granddaughters), exercising, baking bread, traveling, educating tomorrow’s leaders, and participating on various boards and board committees.

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I have long referred to the Baldrige community as the most generous community on earth. This is true even during times of personal loss and may have saved my life during some very dark years. Harry, you and your staff, and many fellow examiners were so kind to me in my grief and isolation. I cannot ever thank you enough.

Thanks Harry,
Happy New Year.
Finer words were never spoken. So true. My Baldrige moments were some of the finest of my career and it was due to the great people and dedication of those we worked with and served.

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