AOC’s squad always has her back — and it shows the power of making friends at work

Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (left) and Ilhan Omar.

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Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (left) and Ilhan Omar.
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  • Progressive congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, and Ilhan Omar have been friends since taking office.
  • Making friends at work, both in DC and beyond, has been linked to better work performance and increased job satisfaction.
  • Minorities say having work friends leads to less burnout.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, and Ilhan Omar aren’t just making headlines with their progressive policy agenda and active social media platforms – they’re also hanging out as friends.

Ocasio-Cortez posted a picture of the group on her Instagram in November with the caption “squad” to describe their friendship (a term Taylor Swift infamously used to describe her own group of pals, according to The New York Times.)

From Joe Biden and Barack Obama to George W. Bush and Condoleezza Rice, forming close friendships in DC is nothing new. Becoming friends with the people you work with can sometimes be inevitable, especially when Americans spend more and more time on the job.

Forging work bonds has been linked to greater productivity, better decision making, and increased happiness outside of the office. Yet, less Americans report making friends at work, due in part to job-hopping among millennials.

Here are six benefits to making friends at work, and lessons we can learn from “the squad’s” companionship.


Workers who have friends say they’re more productive and engaged.

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A 2018 survey from the Gallup Organization found that for 5 million workers over 35, the majority who had best friends at work were more engaged, productive, and successful.

Women especially benefit from having friends at work: the same survey found female employees with best friends at work are more than twice as likely to be engaged compared to women without close connections.


There are even science-backed reasons why making friends at work can make you better at your job.

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Research says when you have friends at work, you’re a better employee because of it.

A 2008 study in the Journal of Applied Psychology that analyzed the behavior of 77,954 employees found having friends at work increased job satisfaction, and resulted in a greater commitment to your role at the company.

Similarly, a study by two organizational behavior experts from the late ’90s found that groups of friends make better decisions and cooperate more on a given task when compared to groups of acquaintances.


Having friends at work can have benefits even when you’re not on the job, including links to better health and happiness.

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Your mental – and maybe physical – health benefit from work friendships.

Happiness expert and author Annie McKee told Business Insider friendships at work lead to overall increased levels of happiness, even when you’re at home.

Plus, having work friends might lead you to live longer. A study out of Tel Aviv University followed 820 employees and found a correlation between long-term health and having a social connection in the workplace.


If you’re a minority in your workplace, making friends at work can help you feel less alone.

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As some of the only women of color in Congress, “the squad’s” friendship may also be a way to support each other and prevent burnout.

Moj Mahdara, the CEO of makeup and fashion festival company Beautycon, told an audience at The New York Times New Rules Summit in June that befriending other minorities kept her from getting burned out at work. Mahdara said she sometimes feels pressure to work harder as a woman of color to achieve career success, a common phenomenon among minorities in the workplace. When she feels stressed or overworked, Mahdara said she reaches out to her other woman of color friends for support.

“We are only texting and talking to each other about propelling our dreams,” Mahdara said. “That’s the secret pact I think we’ve all made: to push each other forward.”

Similarly, Marah Lidey and Naomi Hirabayashi, co-founders of the self-care app Shine, bonded initially due to both feeling burned out at work from being the only women of color at their jobs.

The two used the phrase “representation burnout” to describe the feeling, and told Business Insider that they built Shine in part to create a support network for minorities in the workplace who experience it.


Close friendships with the opposite gender are sometimes referred to as ‘work spouse’ relationships, and having one can make you happier.

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Coworkers sometimes refer to the person they spend the most time with in the office as their “work spouse,” especially if they are of the opposite sex.

While the term “work spouse” may sound insidious – and sometimes may even lead to emotional affairs – having a best friend at work can actually make you happier. Around 300 employees with a “work spouse” in a 2015 survey reported having more fun at work and being more productive because of the relationship.


Making friends at work can even land you a promotion.

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If you’re looking for a way to get ahead, making more friends could be a better strategy.

Building relationships within your organization outside of just your direct manager shows you’re committed to the company, says Erica Keswin, a workplace strategist and a former executive coach at New York University’s Stern School of Business.

Keswin recommends joining employee resource groups, like one for women or millennials. You can demonstrate your managerial potential by taking on a leadership role within the group, while connecting with others around the company.

That way, Keswin said, “you have champions in other areas” – not just your manager and your team.