Workplace friendships: good or bad?
Few would argue that true friendship has the power to enrich our lives. But what role should friendship play in the workplace? Is it smarter to keep your personal and professional lives separate or to seek out and make friends on the job?
Dr. Jan Yager, author of Friendshifts: The Power of Friendship and How It Shapes Our Lives, has found that workplace friendships can have a profound effect on your career. A friend on the job can make a job more enjoyable and even enhance your creativity and productivity. Many people land new jobs as a result of friendships and companies often have schemes that encourage employees to refer their friends for employment.
When workplace friendships go wrong, however, the impact can be great. The more colleagues socialize at work the less productive they are; personal or professional information can fall into the wrong hands; and cliques may form, leading to favouritism, exclusivity and negativity.
Although clicking with someone on the job can spark a friendship, whether to invest in the relationship is a conscious choice. It is ultimately a question of trust. Allegiances need to be maintained if you have friends at work. Do not let personal information you may have discussed with a friend go beyond the circle of friendship.
Are the friendships you develop at work fundamentally different from other friendships? Dr. Yager says that in some ways, yes. A job provides financial security. If forced to choose between keeping their source of income or a friendship, most people would choose to keep their job. Because of the advantages and disadvantages of developing friendships at work, whether or not to enter into a workplace friendship becomes a complicated issue. The right group of friends can be a great influence on your career. The wrong group can get you fired.
So how does one navigate the treacherous waters of workplace friendships? Dr. Yager provides this advice:- be discreet about your friends’ confidences, and think carefully about the type of information you choose to divulge; if you think your friendship puts you or your friend in a compromising position on the job, talk about it. If necessary, withdraw yourself from situations that might be a conflict of interest; find out if your company has a policy regarding workplace friendships, and follow the rules.