Brokers & Work Relationships

Many years ago, the Gallup Organization published research showing that people who had a “best friend” at work tended to be happier and more effective, plus they stayed with their companies longer. Encouraging people to build relationships at work is good for workers and good for the company.

Now that we lived through the pandemic and have entered the era of remote work, how relevant is the “best-friend-at-work” imperative? Well, as it turns out, it’s even more relevant than it used to be. Recent Gallup data show that having a “best friend” at work has become more important since the start of the pandemic, even considering the increase in remote and hybrid work.

But there’s a group of professionals that is vulnerable to missing out on this very important work-life benefit: Gen Z.

In this week’s Wall Street Journal article, “What Gen Z Will Lose if They Don’t Have Friendships at Work,” Jeffrey Hall writes about his research into the role of friendships at work. He and his colleagues surveyed 4,300 adults, asking them to identify up to seven friends. Among all the locations where people met these friends, work (16.1%) was second only to school (20.3).

As you get older, work replaces school as a primary source of friendship, Hall writes. People who were 51 years or older were twice as likely to have met at least one of their friends at work (44%) than people under 30 (21%).

“Having a close friend at work has well-established benefits for both careers and well-being. Working people are less lonely and socially isolated than those who aren’t working. At the same time, close friendships—wherever they form—boost happiness and life satisfaction. Around the office, workplace friends are advocates, mentors and confidants—a second set of eyes and ears. A friend at work is a source of support,” writes Hall, who is a professor of communication studies at the University of Kansas.

What does all this mean for commercial real estate brokers?

It depends. Younger brokers need to make a concerted effort to build collegial relationships. Older brokers need to be careful not to become too isolated. Older brokers should also remember the important role they play in helping younger brokers be successful. A profession thrives when successful members pay it forward.

While CRE brokers tend not to be typical remote workers, it’s safe to say that cell phones, laptops and virtual meeting technology have made it easy for brokers to avoid showing up at the office.

I’ve had the privilege of visiting about 100 commercial real estate offices over the past two years. That gives me a unique perspective on the overall state of the profession. I can tell you without a doubt that remote work technology has had a negative impact on office environments. When I walk around real estate offices, it’s a lot more quiet than it used to be, and there are more darkened desks than there used to be.

CRE brokers have long been less attached than your typical worker. Brokers are independent mavericks who eat what they kill. They don’t work traditional schedules like 9-to-5 workers. Brokers sometimes spend the entire business day outside the office meeting with clients.

Nevertheless, even lone-wolf brokers benefit from healthy professional friendships. Research indicates a broker will be more likely to exceed their commission goals if they have strong relationships in the office and especially a “best friend at work.”

So, what can you do? To start, take the initiative and be a good sport. Unless there’s something urgent, show up for your company’s sales meetings. And be fully present – that means you participate instead of sitting in the corner on your phone the whole time. Even though you’re busy, try hard to attend lunch-and-learns and company social events. It’s good for your health and your career.

Some brokers might not like this next part, but I’m going to say it anyway: show a little vulnerability with people. Open up and share info about yourself. Friends – even “professional friends” – don’t keep each other at an arm’s-length distance. Everyone in the office deserves respect and is worthy of your attention. Be appreciative.

Relationship building with your colleagues is worth your time and energy. If you’re a successful broker, it’s probably because you have diligently worked hard and amassed skills/experiences over the years. Success is the result of deliberate effort. If healthy work relationships are good for brokerage success, then it makes sense to be deliberate in those relationships too.

Jeff Beals helps you find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share. He is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant. He delivers compelling speeches and sales-training workshops worldwide. He has spoken in 6 countries and 41 states. A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.