Monday to Friday, for at least 8 hours a day, we spend time with our colleagues. Not only is this more time than with our families, it's often spent overcoming daily challenges that include a certain degree of pressure. It's only natural to become closer with your colleagues and develop deeper friendships as a result, but in a competitive work environment, can a colleague be a friend can trust?
Unless you intentionally create an artificial distance, if you're of a similar age, pursue a similar life-style and share the same aspirations as a colleague, the chances are that a friendship will grow over time. Jan Yager, a well-known Human Relations expert, states in her book Friendships: The Power of Friendship and How It Shapes Our Lives, that it's particularly unwise if you're not making friends within the workplace, as making friends improves your happiness at work which in turn increases performance. Positive and healthy relationships with colleagues then go on to open doors, making career progression easier.
It's a common misconception by managers that friendship within their team reduces performance. Studies suggest a direct correlation between a decrease in turnover and increase in talent retention when friendships are allowed to develop. Research conducted at Rutgers University in New Jersey, USA, showed that where friendship does develop, so does better cooperation and feedback. This is particularly useful when people require assistance and suggestions by colleagues. Most importantly it has been shown to improve and maintain morale.
Although studies do demonstrate the positive impact of friendship within the work place, there is also an associated risk. This risk emanates from an increase in the complexity of the relationship itself between two people. The working environment removes a natural buffer between friends in event of a conflict, causing pressure and the potential to further deteriorate relationships. This can significantly affect the working culture and environment for everyone else.
Jan Yager also states that given the choice between financial security and friendship, people tend to choose keeping their job, so when seeking to establish new friendships the position and influence of your colleague should be considered, as not to adversely affect your career in things go badly.
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