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Why Workplace Friendships Are Not So Bad for Business

"As company family picnics declined, so did the social interaction in the workplace."

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Earlier, I came across the article, "Having Work Friends Can Be Tricky, But It’s Worth It," which I found to be interesting. The most interesting part was the statistics on co-workers vacationing together. “Going on a vacation with a co-worker is virtually unimaginable in America—less than 6 percent of workers have taken their relationship with colleagues to this level.”  

A few weeks ago, I returned from vacation with four other people, one of which is a friend I met through work. So now I fit into that “less than 6 percent” category, and if you know me, you would never think I would. I like to keep small circles and I am not the social butterfly, so when I go to a new company, I do what is asked of me and go home. Having numerous side hustles when I was younger, I always had the “business is business, friends are friends” mentality, and it still holds true to this day. You have to have the same mentality in the workplace, which also allows you to quickly get over any grievances you have with someone that you forged a friendship with through work. This is something that many athletes that play on teams learn early on. You get into a fight with a teammate during practice, you leave it on the field and you do not carry that grudge forward. I was reminded of this again my freshman year in college after getting into a fight with a junior during football training camp.

At work, there will be some people that you relate to easier than others, and it is OK to befriend them. This makes the workplace more fun and enjoyable, and creates a healthier environment. The less you interact with others in the workplace, the greater the chance that communication starts happening in silos when it is time to work with other departments. You are either left out of the loop or fail to include the correct people when it comes time to get projects completed. It is not hard to be professional and social during work, and there was a time when this was the case. As company family picnics declined, so did the social interaction in the workplace. In my opinion, the more you understand the different personalities of your co-workers, the easier it is to communicate with them and not take things personally when there is miscommunication. Now, conversations with some co-workers are down to the level of saying, "Hi, how are you doing?" and getting the response of, "I am fine, and you?" as you pass each other in the hallway, barely making contact, and your voice trails off in the distance. 

With the emergence of social media, the game has changed even more. Co-workers you do not speak to want to be your friend, and companies are searching for you before hiring you. Sometimes, you have to draw the line and not add everyone that you work with. You do not always want to see their views on certain issues or have them providing their opinions on posts you make. Several years ago, I remember seeing an article that read, "Arrested for Setting Fire to the Home of a Woman Who 'Unfriended' Her on Facebook. 

Americans are one of the few people that can work in a group with others from another country, and then be asked about the tasks they were given. They will be able to answer the question about the tasks, but fail to remember anything about the socio-emotional side of the activity. It is like they are just going through the motions, disengaged and only thinking about getting right to business. This reminds me of when I used to help run a youth football league. I was the Commissioner for the third and fourth grade league and I almost had to ban a parent the first day of practice. The coaches were meeting their players for the first time, and one parent felt that the coach of one particular team was taking too long to start running drills. This parent did not care that the coach did not know the name of his child yet, he just wanted to get down to business. Since he felt that the coach was taking too long—he saw other teams start to practice—he became angered and threatened the coach. I had to go over and defuse the situation from two sides. The league president was ready to get rid of the parent and the player, and I had to assure him that I could handle that situation with the parent without having to kick the player off the team. After it was all said and done, the parent was never an issue the rest of the season.  

There are some workplaces that encourage employees to make friends at work and provide an environment that makes it easier to do so, while a select few frown upon it and want you to do your robotic duties and go home. Personally, I could not work for a company with a work culture that pushes the later.

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