Workplace friendships can be joyous, enduring relationships contributing to personal and professional success. It’s how we manage them that matter.
Regularly spending time with the same people is likely to result in platonic relationships forming. Such friendships can foster innovation and psychological safety, as well as encourage collaboration, adaptability, vulnerability, healthy competition, and humility – skills that businesses should seek to optimise.
In fact, a study confirms that 76.13% of employees have at least one close friend at work and many organisational psychologists recognise the benefits of social-emotional connections at work.
So, what role does friendship play in the workplace? Is it crucial to have a close team inside and outside of the office? Is there a balance to be struck?
Of course, there are potential drawbacks from having interpersonal relationships. Personal lives can impact the workplace, and the line between colleague and friend can sometimes blur the distinction between professional and private life. Dynamics change as reporting lines do and suddenly a friendship becomes strained, and leadership becomes more challenging.
The most successful and high-performing teams I’ve worked with had respect for each other, clear accountabilities, enjoyed a similar humour and had a focus on communication and collaboration. They had an alignment of values that bound them.
Employers can and should strive to create cohesion. Workplace friendships can be a positive force, but also potentially a disruptive one. Friendships will form organically but careful consideration may be given regarding recruitment and the culture companies are creating. Value alignment is particularly powerful as employers want their people to have some common ground, enough to build trust, honesty with each other and the ability to both challenge and support. This foundation creates a positive environment to engage, innovate and communicate effectively.
The key in workplace friendships is the skill of setting and working with boundaries to maintain both professionalism and friendship. You can coach your employees to feel confident in this. With boundaries in place, you can mitigate the risk of personal problems making their way into the office.
While friendship at work isn’t necessarily an important thing for all, nurturing an environment where friendship is possible in a professional context can reap rewards. What blossoms into friendship beyond work is a plus, but more critical is a focus on recruiting people with diverse perspectives but similar values. This can foster innovation and productive teams who can support and challenge each other to create a positive place to work.
Think of your own group of friends. You’re not all carbon copies of each other, right?
If you would like to discuss how we can help you find this balance in your hiring practices, workplace culture, and team and individual coaching, please get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org