Do you have a best friend at work? This question elicits frowns, outright dismissal of the concept or a tentative nod. Gallup, the analytics and advisory company, found that the inclusion of this question in their employee engagement questionnaire was the most controversial.
Friends At Work
The answer lies in the competitiveness that most people feel with their coworkers. There are no friends at work, only colleagues is the advice I was given when I took my woebegone face to a boss about a friend’s aggressive work behavior.
But research time and again has proved my erstwhile boss wrong. Friendship at work is the strongest predictor of productivity
Why is it so – Friends At Workplace?
Studies show that employees with a best friend at work are more focused, more engaged with the organization, and tend to stay longer in their jobs.
Gallup’s research shows a strong link between having a best friend at work and the amount of effort employees expend in their job. It says women who strongly agree they have a best friend at work are more than twice as likely to be engaged (63%) compared with the women who say otherwise (29%).
A joint study by management professors at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Minnesota showed that friends who worked together communicated better and offered teammates positive encouragement. The feedback amongst friendly teammates was more honest. The reasoning was that when friends work together they are more invested in the work and there is a social pressure to also perform better.
Friends Work Together Give More Productivity
When there are no friendships at work, what is the result? Psychologists call it process loss. When two colleagues are at loggerheads, there is an obvious loss of productivity because more energy is wasted in futile competitiveness, there is no meeting of minds, miscommunication, and sometimes it descends into a full-on undeclared war.
The loss is felt by the organization as energies are wasted in inessential things rather than on the task at hand.
We spend a lot of our time at work and it is natural to seek connections at the workplace.
Gallup says that people with friends at the workplace are seven times more engaged in their jobs, are better at engaging customers, produce higher quality work, have higher well-being, and are less likely to get injured on the job.
Gallup’s research shows that women who have a strong friendship network at the workplace are less likely to leave the workforce in their prime working years to be stay-at-home mothers. Gallup’s research has found that the social aspect of their working life is a major driving force for women to continue working even under challenging circumstances.
Women who had a best friend at work were not actively looking out for a job, trusted their co-workers, were more open to risks and innovations, reported positive work experiences, and were less likely to complain of bad days at work.
The corporate culture is just not conducive to having a balanced work and family life for women who want to work. Spending 40 plus hours away from home and hearth to fritter away a major part of those earnings on home and child help does not make economic sense. Organizations will have to work really hard to come up with viable solutions to retain this major part of the talent pool to maintain a gender diverse workplace. The research also throws up the fact that women in the workforce do not have a wholesome social life compared to those out of work; it is 38 % vs 43%.
Friendships At Work
Gallup says that organizations should encourage good relationships at work as it improves the bottomline of the company. People are happier, more engaged and produce better work when they have solid connections at work.
Research shows the 2 out of 10 people in the US cite having best friends at work and Gallup’s study says that if were to multiply this ratio and make it 6 out of 10 then there will be –
- 36% fewer safety incidents
- 7% more engaged customers
- 12% higher profit
A good way to achieve a more engaged and connected workforce is to encourage open communication, promote more social occasions, and encourage cross-functional team activities so that people from different units can meet and get to know each other. An engaged and committed workforce with a good network of teammates and friends in the organization means a cohesive workforce.