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Whirling Chief
Nº 170

Does Friendships Really Matter At Work?

We all do it. Hide behind the truth.

Majority of us report regularly ‘faking’ a good attitude and consciously acting to display ‘appropriate’ emotions at work. And it is not just about being tired or frustrated in a day, we hide our preferences, thoughts, our likes, dislikes, etc. The unfortunate consequence is that we completely ‘drain’ ourselves of our productive, life giving energies.

For years I made the excuse that as the designated HR partner, I needed to be ‘not so close’ to a single client as to keep neutrality; where as I had no issue playing soccer with a group of clients in the fields. I pretended friendships didn’t exist in the workplace and I was hired to ‘do my job’ and that alone. My heart sank when a person I genuinely cared for came into my office while I struggled to keep the conversation to the frames of task identified in my job description. Many times I knew I could do more to elevate the suffering of the individual and my heart wanted to; yet, somehow, I gave into my rationale whispering I was better off doing limiting my follow through to what was being asked of me as a high performing professional. I literally and consciously fed the culture what it seemed to want of me rather than showing the courage to honour my own being and leadership values.

The truth of the matter is that friendships do exist in the workplace. More importantly, they matter in the workplace as well as the type of work friends engage in. According to a meta analysis on the relationship between friendship and group performance, friendship groups perform better than mere acquaintance groups when a high quality output is required. Researchers for Gallup also found that having strong social connections at work makes employees more likely to be engaged with their jobs and produce higher-quality work, and less likely to fall sick or be injured.

So, perhaps it is time we start treating each other as mature adults and start trusting one another’s choices? After all, belonging is a fundamental human need and caring is our default mode.

When we feel a sense of belonging, that feeling of being ‘cared for’ not only ignites our reward system, our brains produce oxytocin and we feel lifted in spirit and useful in relation to others. That’s why our social connections at work have big impact on our productivity and our ability to display authentic behavior. And we see it in action… In both Fortune’s ‘100 Best Companies To Work For‘ and Glassdoor’s top listing companies as ‘2018 Best Places To Work‘ we find caring to be the mutual success sauce in creation of cultures based on trust and reciprocity.

On the other side, loneliness and weak social connections are associated with a reduction in lifespan similar to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes a day and even greater than that associated with obesity. “At work, loneliness reduces task performance, limits creativity, and impairs other aspects of executive function such as reasoning and decision making. For our health and our work, it is imperative that we address the loneliness epidemic quickly,” states September 2017 HBR article of ‘Connecting Around the World’.

It is true workplace friendships can be tricky. Nevertheless, there is no need to be scared of them or hide from the possibility.

Next time you think about the choices you make at work regarding friendship, consider both the impact of your decision on your wellbeing as well as on others and on the environment.

After all, we are the architects of our experiences!


  • 5 March 2018

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Wow. This is such a needed book in today”s society. My daughter got caught up in a toxic, manipulative friendship. After she could see and admit the friendship needed to end, it took a year for her to fully break away. Beth Moore”s “Breaking Free study was a great help, especially Week 11 (I believe) which addresses toxic female friendships and how prevalent they are. I never realized it until we went through it. I also never realized the damage such a friendship can cause. Thanks for sharing this book, Carrie! cheap

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