Should you develop friendships in the workplace?

6th July 2015

The old saying goes “those that play together, stay together” but perhaps it goes a bit deeper than that; it’s not just about playing together, but forming friendships with the people you work with. We are firm believers of the benefits of play in the workplace, not a day goes by without a NERF gun battle breaking out and we understand the power of getting people engaged in this manner, and yes – it definitely makes people become better friends.

Recent research by workplace engagement consultants Gallup reaffirms the growing consensus that employees need to have friends at work in order to be productive and it’s an imperative of the business to facilitate employees in the development of these social ties so employees can maximise productivity and efficiency.

Employee FriendshipsSocial ledger theory states that both positive and negative relationships are important in the workplace. In the HR profession we tend to recognise and rewards positive relationships however it’s probably fair to say we spend less time in attempting to understand the role negative relationships can have on the workplace and how this social undermining can operate.

Friendships within the workplace can of course go some way to mitigate the impact of social undermining from other team members so it’s essential each person can develop a clear social support network.

Suzanne Edinger, Lecturer In Organisational Behaviour at Nottingham University Business School reported that they had asked people a basic question go to a person that was being socially undermined for support or meet with them outside the workplace, measuring the results on a Likert scale (which tests the strength of a friendship) and the results suggests that friendships do positively impact productivity and buffer the individual from the repercussions of social undermining.

By focussing on this element during employee engagement activities friendships should be facilitated between people within the business that work in separate departments (especially those which operate in a siloed capacity but which work on similar activities) to increase knowledge share and prevent different departments consistently finding different solutions to the same issues.

A crucial factor in what makes people friends is the concept of trust in which friends build trust between themselves which can help in developing a greater sense of wellbeing and job satisfaction.

It’s also fair to say there are going to be some negative consequences of your team forming friendships in the workplace. There has been several studies about how people behave when someone they’ve closely associated with leaves the business and the evidence suggest these people need to be specially managed so they don’t become detached from the company and the culture.

Probably the best thing about encouraging friendships to develop between co-workers is that it doesn’t really cost you anything and it can hugely improve efficiencies amongst your team.

Fun and friendships can’t be forced and that’s why at HRonline we’re committed to the concept of making work fun. We believe that if our team has fun in the workplace they’ll perform better and we see it time and time again, those who are most engaged pull out all the stops when they need to, they don’t just go the extra mile for the business but they put on their capes and do something superhuman. What’s more this play is helping to form real friendships that don’t just exist within the workplace, involving people from all across the business and this is already helping to create better communications and creativity throughout the business.