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NextGen Magazine


Making Friends at Work Can Be Crucial to Rising to the C-Suite—and It Can Be Done Remotely

S.J. Steinhardt
Published Date:
Feb 28, 2023

Making friends at an early stage of one’s career can lead to leadership roles later in life, according to Fortune. But it takes effort, particularly in the current working environment.

Many of today’s CEOs realized the importance of building that bond with their colleagues. Katy Wright said the support she received from former co-workers at her first advertising agency has helped her since she became CEO of advertising agency FCB Inferno last year.

“[T]hey understand the business I work in, thus they immediately get the context or have faced a similar situation, so the advice, the challenge, the calling BS and the cheerleading stands,” she said.

Iñaki Ereño, the global CEO of health insurance firm Bupa, said that he and his former peers continue to learn from one another as they follow different career paths and as their respective networks expand. “I’ve been able to make bold decisions knowing that I have a network of people who will support me,” he said.

One CEO interviewed by Fortune met his life and professional partners through work. “I met two of the most important people in my life through working at that first ‘real job’—my wife and my co-founder and COO, James Hirst,” said Martin Buhr, co-founder and CEO of software company Tyk. He told Fortune that there are other stories such as his.

Making and having friends in business is good both personally and professionally, said Buhr. “They can spot gaps you’re blind to or call you out when you maybe didn’t follow your own advice, in a way that others in your company may not feel able to—especially when you’re the CEO.”

Developing workplace friendships has been made more difficult by the pandemic. Forty percent of remote and hybrid workers have found it harder to connect with their colleagues and build a relationship with their seniors, a survey by International Workplace Group found. One-third of hybrid and remote workers, and 55 percent of those hybrid and remote workers between 18 and 25, said that their working arrangement has stunted their progression, a 2022 Glassdoor survey found.

“If you’re not working full-time in an office environment surrounded by people, it can be easy for interactions with colleagues to become perfunctory and focus solely on work,” Glassdoor career trends expert Jill Cotton told Fortune. She advised young new hires to “consciously make time to really get to know your colleagues,” which is harder when everyone is not in the same physical space.

Career coach Kyle Elliott advised connecting with as many peers as possible in the first 90 days, hoping that those connections will grow into more natural friendships

“While putting yourself out there can feel intimidating, particularly when you’re a new hire, know that the benefits often far outweigh the risks,” he said.