The Atlantic

Why It’s So Lonely at the Top

Work friendships are crucial to happiness. What happens when you can’t make them?
Source: Jan Buchczik

How to Build a Life” is a biweekly column by Arthur Brooks, tackling questions of meaning and happiness.


“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.”

This is the most famous line in William Shakespeare’s play Henry IV, Part 2, spoken by the titular 15th-century English king. He is tired, sick, sad, and alone in his misery. His remark expresses the persistent idea that leaders tend to be isolated and lonely.

Modern research supports this claim. It’s not that leaders are more likely than others to say they are lonely people in general, but isolation and loneliness at work are a special source of unhappiness for people at the top.

Friendship at work is crucial to happiness for most people. Among employees and managers by the human-resource advisory firm Future Workplace and the workplace-wellness company Virgin Pulse, more than 90 percent said they have friends from work, 70 percent said friendship at work is the most important element to a happy work life, and 58 percent

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