How important is it that you work with people you like? Does it matter if you hang out with them outside of work? Or, do you prefer to keep your professional and personal lives separate -- talking to friends during the day via Twitter and Facebook?
In my experience, it makes a difference to me that I like the folks where I work. If I don't, the days can be very long, and very stressful. At the same time, I know that if I work with people I like, I have a tendency to gab to them about non work-related stuff -- what I did over the weekend, the ongoing war I have with the deer that get into my garden and whether or not I can make dinner with only olives and bran cereal.
What impact do friends have on your work? Read this column I did for Gannett/USAToday.com and see if your views change....
While research shows that workplace friendships result in higher job satisfaction among employees, there is a “dark side” to having buddies on the job, says a new study.
“You hear all these positive things about how friendships at work can build morale, and that’s true – but they can be bad for work because they can cause us to avoid getting work done,” says Jessica Methot, an assistant professor at Rutgers University.
When she was at the University of Florida, Methot studied colleague relationships and found those who worked with people considered “friends” engaged in “more whining and gossiping and complaining,” she says.
“In other words, these friends really didn’t help one another be more productive,” she says.
Patricia Turner, who works for an e-learning publisher in Lewisville, Texas, says she has noticed that if friends work in different departments, there’s a tendency for one person “to hang around the department with the friend and talk about their plans for the weekend.”
“Honestly, they’ve got no reason to be there (in that department). Neither person is getting any work done,” Turners says.
Methot says that’s a prime example of how workplace friendships can cause problems and impact productivity. “If you’ve got friends working in different departments, they have a tendency to want to get together, and chat,” she says.
The need to socialize with a friend at work – even if it means going to another area of a company – is something that managers need to be aware of when looking at work teams, Methot says.
“There are implications for companies that want company-wide team efforts. If you help all these people become friends, what kind of distraction is that going to be when they’re in different departments and they want to get together?” she questions.
For Turner, workplace friendships are nice to have, especially since it makes the work day more enjoyable if she can go to lunch with colleagues or talk easily with someone while on the job, she says. She adds she has a couple of workplace pals that are “very close,” and spends time with them outside of work. She says the flip side – not getting along with a co-worker – can make for a tense workplace atmosphere.
“I did have a job for 12 years where I worked beside a woman who was hard to work with. It was hell. She was dominating and territorial and I was always watching my back,” she says, adding that the co-worker “made me work harder. It made me more competitive.”
Methot says that when speaking with participants in her survey, the workers revealed they often had not considered the dynamics of their workplace relationships – or how friendships impacted their job or productivity.
“When employees think about not being able to get their jobs done, they think in terms of it being the fault of a supervisor or the Internet going down – they hadn’t really thought about their friends at work,” she says.
Still, Methot says that friendships overall are more positive than negative for the workplace.
“I think what surprised me was how workplace friendships among peers really provided support. An employee was much more likely to ask questions of a friend about how to do something, and they also got emotional support – the friends were more empathetic about what the person was going through,” Methot says.
At the same time, Methot provides a warning about workplace friendships: They can get rocky when one friend is promoted over another.
“We’re much more likely to be envious of someone we’re close to getting a big project, for example. We are much more likely to compare ourselves to them, and we may feel that we deserved it, not them,” she says.
Do you think your productivity is impacted by friends at work?