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Do you need to be friends with colleagues?

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Do you need to be friends with colleagues?

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Much of the ethos behind social business suggests that it entails a great deal of interaction between yourself, your colleagues and other people within your sphere of influence.  With that level of interaction and engagement, is it therefore a prerequisite that you get on with them as friends?  Is it possible to work in a social business if your relationship with colleagues is purely a professional one?

A recent study by Globoforce paints a picture that a workforce with strong personal bonds is an engaged and committed one.  Their recent Workforce Mood Tracker survey sampled 716 employees at reasonably large organizations to try and understand just how close the bond is between people and their colleagues, and what impact this has on their engagement and productivity levels.

The results suggest that the stronger the personal bonds between employees, the better things are.

“There is … a strong argument in this data for companies to be more thoughtful about the cultures they are creating,” the report said, “and to actively promote the development of work friendships and emotional connections among employees.”

The report reveals that friendships tend to matter quite a bit, and in quite a number of ways.  For instance, it emerged that significantly more employees trust their colleagues than they do the leaders in their organization.  What’s more, roughly 2/3 of those surveyed had turned to a colleague during a challenging time in their life.

The report went on to suggest that friendship is key to employees’ commitment levels.  When employees had more than 25 people they class as friends at the company, they were over 50% more likely to say that they loved working there than those employees who believed they had no friends at the company.

Those with a significant number of friends at work were also much more likely to trust the leadership of their company, whilst the friendly amongst them were also less likely to accept a rival job offer than their friendless peers.

Interesting findings, and certainly consistent with previous studies into friendships at work.  For instance, a study conducted a few years ago by author Shawn Achor found that friendly and sociable employees were 40% more likely to get promoted.  He suggests that, what he calls, work altruists (or people that give a lot at work) tend to report both higher job satisfaction and significantly higher engagement levels than those who give very little.

Of course, the link between collaboration and engagement is a well made one.  A study from earlier this year by Stanford researchers made the connection between social activity at work and general engagement levels.

“Working with others affords enormous social and personal benefits,” the researchers declare.  “Our research found that social cues that conveyed simply that other people treat you as though you are working together on a task – rather than that you are just as working on the same task but separately – can have striking effects on motivation.”

The question is, do you have to be sociable on a friendly level in order to be sociable on a professional level?

A study from the 90’s suggests the answer may be yes.  It found that camaraderie at work was key for happiness in both male and female employees.  What’s more, the mere opportunity for friendship was shown to increase both employee satisfaction and organizational effectiveness.

Maybe therefore, more should be done to encourage friendships between employees if you want them to be truly engaged and collaborative.


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