How do you feel about friendships in the workplace? Do you think a pro-friendly organization offers a superior work environment? As a manager, do you find friendships in the workplace help foster employee engagement? Do you care at all about friends in the office? Are there risks to having employee friendships?
Chatting over lunch is not all there is to it; camaraderie in the workplace can be essential in some environments, specifically workplaces with elements of high stress and/or long hours. In these types of environments, the friendship, respect, and trust of your colleagues can go a long way. Relationships are often the critical difference between job satisfaction and job burnout. Younger professionals coming out of a college environment are accustomed to being surrounded by peers and are even more likely to build close relationships with colleagues. And, why not? Positive working friendships are known to increase employee morale, fulfillment, engagement, and employee productivity on the job. A win-win for the employee and the company.
If you’re a manager, you may be wondering if there are any risks associated with friendships in the workplace? Should you be encouraging or discouraging this activity? Indeed there are risks. Friendships in the office may raise issues of equity, fairness, and favoritism. Friendships can also lead to fraternization in the office. But, do the risks outweigh the benefits? Friendships in the workplace can be highly productive or they can be destructive. A destructive friendship is likely to have an impact on the business as a whole, so it is important to have a balanced approach and know where you need to intercede. Promoting a collegial atmosphere with openness, teamwork, friendship, and respect for each another is key. When it comes to the dreaded inter-office fraternization you, as the employer, can prohibit office relationships or stipulate that the company must be made aware of these relationships. Once aware you can make sure that fraternizing employees do not report to each other and you can also separate them while at work. A non-fraternization policy can be created to protect the company from potential lawsuits and to prevent employees from engaging in activities that could interfere with employee productivity and morale.
Building social connections is an important aspect of all of our work lives, given it’s where most of us spend the majority of our time. Developing employee policies that avoid potential favoritism or perceived discrimination will allow for a friendly and healthy work environment. So, go ahead, practice your parent’s advice and make friends.