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The Power of Friendship in the Workplace

Fierce Ideas (orange lightbulb)

Are you having a so-called “hangover” from chocolate, hearts and all the love from Valentine’s Day? If the focus yesterday was on romantic love, let’s focus today on your coworkers, who may also be friends.

Current research reveals that all types of relationships with coworkers play an increasingly significant role in job satisfaction. We released a new study at Fierce, Inc. with over a thousand individuals surveyed to gain insight into the impact of relationships between coworkers.

While the line between friend and coworker can be thin, most employees have embraced the dual title for those they work with. Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed consider two or more coworkers friends, with no significant differences between male and female respondents. Fierce has found both in working with clients, along with a renowned Gallup poll, that the most productive employees and workgroups take this a step further and have a best friend at work. Not a friend, not even a good friend, but a best friend. We’ve known this since 1999 when a Gallup poll discovered that having a best friend at work pinpoints a dynamic of great workgroups.

Whether certain individuals are friends or not, the Fierce survey found that coworkers affect job satisfaction:
● Just 1 in 5 believe coworkers have no impact on their job satisfaction.
● Two-thirds note their coworkers make their jobs more enjoyable.
● For those indicating they are happy in their current role, only 7% say their coworkers make their job less enjoyable.
● For those who are unhappy in their role, that number increases to 30%.

For many, the occasional happy hour or social lunch out of the office are valuable opportunities to connect with coworkers. However, less than 50 percent of those surveyed believe their bosses are supportive of employees socializing outside of the office. This is an area of disconnect between management and employees: only 44 percent of those in entry level positions believe their bosses are supportive of socializing, while nearly 60 percent of senior management believe the same.

So I ask: do you feel supported to socialize outside of the workplace? If not, what conversations do you need to have? And yes, you need to have the conversations, because feeling unsupported impacts your job satisfaction. Of those unhappy in their current role, 28 percent say their organization is unsupportive of socializing outside of work; just four percent of those who are happy feel the same. If organizations are in fact supportive of these relationships, these results indicate there is more that can be done to communicate that the support is there.

Given these statistics, here are some ideas for building friendships if you lead a team or influence a leader:
• Discuss the importance of relationships and friendships. Talk about how they relate to overall job satisfaction, and reference this study. Go for it…people want proof.
• In one-on-one conversations, get curious about how supported team members feel to build relationships whether personal or cross-departmental ones.
• Have a team conversation and brainstorm ways to further develop relationships on your team.
• Authorize a happy hour budget and allow a group of individuals to plan the events. Create structure to receive the information you need to feel comfortable with socializing outside, or even inside, the office.
• Create a list of 3-5 people who you would like to have stronger relationships or friendships. List the conversations you need to have and create a deadline around each.

How do you encourage friendships in the workplace?


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