Friendships vs Bonds: Which is Better for your Team
Every leader wants their team to work well together, after all, employees who don’t get along will never be as productive or efficient as those who do. A business relies on its employees the same way a machine relies on its gears, all the different parts must work in sync in order for the machine to properly function as a whole. If the gears don’t properly line up with one another, they’ll start to clash or drag, and the machine’s performance will suffer.
However, is it possible for the different parts to fit together too well?
Remember, employees tend to spend 40 or more hours per week together, meaning some of them see their coworkers more than they see their own family. On top of that, they’re bound to share some common interests if they’re working in the same industry, all the more so if they’re working in the same department. Humans are social creatures by nature, so it’s natural for those involved to form professional relationships with one another, but those same relationships can grow into personal connections as well.
The question is whether that kind of growth is beneficial or detrimental for your business, and the answer is yes…but occasionally no.
As with all questions concerning relationships, I’m afraid the answer comes with some conditions.
Let’s start by establishing that science shows there are, in fact, many measurable benefits to forming friendships amongst our coworkers. Studies have demonstrated that employees who have workplace friends are have greater productivity morale than employees who do not have workplace friends. Indeed, workers who feel isolated at the office are much less engaged at their workplace, they tend to feel as though their efforts are unrecognized, and are therefore more likely to leave the company. On the other hand, employees who have workplace friends experience greater engagement, as their coworkers serve as a source of motivation and inspiration. Having people they can trust or rely on alleviates stress, overcoming challenges together fosters connectivity, and sharing in success improves their mental wellbeing.
However, here’s where those conditions I mentioned come into play.
While it’s true that teams who are friends with one another will generally decrease employee turnover, this also means that, should an employee decide to leave, their friends are more likely to follow. The loss of such a close contact may serve as a wake-up call to the rest of the team, showing them they could be getting better offers or benefits elsewhere, or even making them realize they don’t have to put up with unfavorable conditions they’ve grown accustomed to at their current workplace. Indeed, strong employee relationships may increase employee turnover in problematic or unsatisfying workplaces, as losing their positive connections will make them less inclined to remain in a job they’re otherwise unhappy with.
What’s more, workplace friendships can end up going sour if one person ends up getting a promotion or raise that the other wanted. This can cause jealousy and, depending on the nature of the people involved, may lead to the spreading of rumors, which will have a negative impact on office morale.
As I said before, relationships have the potential to grow, but they must be properly tended to in order to prevent them from wilting or spoiling. Growing close to your coworkers can result in many benefits, but boundaries must be established early on and respected at all times. Avoid sharing too many details with one another, especially regarding information that could hurt your career were it spread throughout the staff. Remember that you’re on the clock and that your time must be focused on your roles and responsibilities, but feel free to relax and unwind with your colleagues on breaks or after hours.
As for leaders, encourage your team to befriend one another by hosting company outings or events, allowing your employees time and space to mingle freely, and partnering compatible coworkers on projects that suite their skills. Give them work that will strengthen their bonds, give them a workplace they can look forward to coming to, and they’ll give you the kind of productivity and performance that only friends can achieve.