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“Do you have a best friend at work?”
This is a question that Gallup has asked for 30 years in its employee engagement research. And it’s the one question that has generated a number of debates. But Gallup has measured its importance. Research has shown a link between having a best friend at work and employees’ engagement.
A study that included professionals from different countries – Canada, Sweden, Spain, Malaysia, Australia and India, among others – revealed interesting data:
46% professionals felt work friendships positively affect their happiness.
57% of millennial professionals feel happier when they have work friends.
50% of the respondents thought that work friendships are motivating.
39% felt friendships at work lead to more productivity.
However, friendships at the workplace can be tricky. At times, it may lead to a conflict between the professional and the personal, and even leave things awry. The boundaries between the personal and the professional tend to get blurry.
So, are there ways in which professionals could manage workplace friendships well and better? We’ve put together solutions, tips and cues to navigate this challenging relationship.
Secrecy can create friction between friends at the workplace. Knowing work friends’ salaries, new projects that they are working on, promotions, raises and other such details can make relationships stronger. Research has shown that transparency leads to increased productivity and motivation among work friends. Here are a few things you could practice:
Develop conflict resolution skills
Susan David, author of Emotional Agility, warns, “don’t become so involved in a work friendship that it depletes your energy and productivity.” Annie McKee of the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education suggests a few questions to watch for key signs.
These questions could also help in conflict resolution.
Create healthy boundaries
Don’t let friends at work become distractions. It’s important to know where and when to draw a line. Here are a few things that you could do:
Be comfortable with strong emotions
Peter Bergman, leadership coach and author, emphasizes that those who have friends at work end up having strong emotions. Disagreements, conflicts, bias – people who have friends at work have to deal with all this and more. And hence, it is essential that friends at work develop comfort with strong emotions. Further, Bergman talks about the essential skills of communication, empathy, and listening that help in managing friendships at the workplace.
Setting boundaries, rules and norms in friendship is easier said than done. But once these are put into practice, workplace friendship can actually benefit employees. Google, Zappos and Southwest Airlines are among the companies that promote collegial cultures. Moreover, with organizations now having a larger number of millennial workers, the need for informality, friendliness, and blending of personal and professional.
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