The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Workplace Friendships

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Workplace friendships may seem like an ideal arrangement at first blush. But once the honeymoon phase ends, a whole different picture may emerge. Whether the image appears rosy or bleak depends entirely upon those involved in the friendship. Unfortunately, situations can sour long before individuals realize they should not have beenfriended a colleague. When workplace friends turn enemies, a company loses far more than camaraderie. A broken friendship can reduce productivity, cause infection, and spread discontentment. This is not to say that you should never befriend anyone in the workplace. After all, you spend eight hours a day, five days a week with the same people. The key is to know where to draw the line.

Workplace friendships among co-workers can have a positive impact on morale and productivity. Friends help each other navigate the ups and downs of the job, offering the support necessary to motivate an employee to progress through the drudgery. Friends help each other sort through personal problems, which can prevent personal issues from interfering with production. Friends even promote a positive work experience by ensuring that laughter and companionship is often invade the workplace. These upsides to workplace friendships make for happier and more productive employees, who in turn, want to work hard, put their best foot forward, and generate excellent output. Positive interpersonal relationships produce cohesive teams conducive to productivity.

The same factors that unite employees also can tear them apart. Problems emerge when friends go awry, and the consequences can be severe for both the friendship and the company. Broken friendships often lead to infection, bickering, and tattling, which divert attention away from the job and towards resolving employee disputes. Distracted and disgruntled employees produce poor quality work and generate less output. Unfortunately, bad attitudes are contagious and tend to have a negative domino effect on employee morale. While these setbacks may not prove catastrophic to the company, they are nonetheless take time and energy away from the daily operational and business functions.

On a small scale, broken friendships can destroy teams that need the stability of solid interpersonal relationships to function effectively. When tension continues to build, it is only a matter of time before the water boils over. At boiling point, your increasingly frustrated and unfocused employees may miss serious deadlines, overlooked important tasks, or even alienate clients. Instead of accomplishing the tasks at hand, team leaders will have to spend time addressing interpersonal issues.

On a large scale, the lack of trust among employees may impede the long and short range goals of the organization. A company faced with widespread distrust and resentment among employees can either deal with the issue or retain all new staff. The later option rarely, if ever, will be feasible. Consequently, companies will be forced to put aside certain goals to address problems in the work. This indeed is a catastrophic setback.

When individuals work closely together, some level of friendship and ambition inevitably will emerge. Trouble lies not in the formation of relations but in the failure to set clear boundaries around relations. Obviously prohibited relationships include any sort of romantic involvement between co-workers or between managers and employees. Destroyed friendships pose a challenge but destroyed romances create roadblocks near impossible to overcome. Similarly, managers should avoid friendships with their employees because this situation tends to cause jealousy and resentment among the non-friend employees. No amount of fact presentation or persuasion will convince the non-friend employees that they were appropriately passed over for a promotion.

Companies can set limits on workplace relationships by avoiding situations that promote trouble. Managers who focus on building strong teams through workplace activities hold the key to success. These managers make teambuilding work-related so that employees develop a closeness founded on the common desire to promote the team's mission. Managers who foster teamwork through happy hours and other such social events fail to promote the business goals of the team. Instead these managers have opened the door for relationships to develop outside of the workplace.

Employees need freedom to associate and build workplace friendships. Companies must encourage team building by offering activities and gatherings during work hours to prevent excessive mingling during non-work hours. Offer employees plenty of work-related chances to get to know one another. You will find yourself with a happy and productive staff that unites over their shared business tasks. Most importantly, by encouraging employees to spend time together at work, you silently discourage your staff from friendships that are not work-related.


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