Oftentimes people in the workplace hear opposing opinions on the role of friendship and its place in the work environment. One side says, “We’re not at work to make friends.” These companies look at the potential downfalls of incorporating friendship into the business plan–such as excessive chatter, romantic entanglements, problems for people who struggle with separating work from play, creating conflict-of-interest scenarios, and challenging independent judgment.
While these are valid risks of encouraging positive relationships in the workplace, this mindset is is focused on making work the transactional center of efficient people tackling a list of tasks. However, research proves allowing and promoting team-building is more beneficial in the long run for employees.
In the past, companies who sat on the “no friends” side of the fence restricted opportunities for their employees to build relationships. Oftentimes this took the form of discouraging employees from participating on the same sports team, romantic relationships, and in extreme cases even discouraging eating together on lunch breaks.
Companies that sit on the other side of the fence (and in this day and age, most companies are pro-friendship) stress the need for healthy work relationships, placing value in team-building exercises in order to foster friendship in the workplace. People can make or break the work environment, and how they relate to one another is critical. Friendships at work can produce extremely desirable things:
- Increased and steady productivity
- Steady levels of happiness and enjoyment
- And finally, providing stable mental environments
It’s important to have healthy relationships with your coworkers in the office. It provides avenues for workers to problem solve and tackle projects together; instead of feeling like an obligation, camaraderie and relationship building creates a situation of a friend needing assistance to finish a big project.
On average, the full-time employee spends eight hours a day at work. The critical variable: is the work environment draining and detrimental to productivity, or are there people to offer jokes, light-hearted stories, and a shoulder to lean on during times of large workloads, resulting in a welcoming space to work? Introducing opportunities for employees to forge work friendships not only allows a time to de-stress, but also a time to laugh.
Which ties into the final point – staying sane. When the deluge of hectic craziness hits, sometimes only a shared groan can remind you that you’re human. Making friends in the workplace creates a support network and does wonders for morale, mental health, and productivity.
Regardless of where you work, more often than not you will have to interact with people; you will have a boss, you will have people you’re serving, and you will have people you’re working with. Developing and maintaining good relationships with coworkers is important.
Let’s look at ways to cultivate and develop good relationships with coworkers:
Know how to present yourself
Putting your best foot forward is always intimidating when beginning a new job or beginning a new friendship. Being personable and confident in the skills you have, as well as who you are, allows you to interact with coworkers about tasks and assignments, providing avenues to break the ice. While it may take time to learn how to perform the responsibilities of the position you’ve been hired for, it’s also important to learn how to integrate yourself into the company.
Use good communication skills
Communication takes work – and is learned through a trial-and-error process. Listening, asking questions, being honest, being open, and being prepared and confident in what you’re trying to say are all important pieces of being a good communicator. Getting personal allows you to build a connection by focusing on how a message is being understood by the listener. Ensuring that the information you’re passing on in a conversation is correct is critical. If you lack confidence in whether or not your information is valid, admit uncertainty. When speaking with another person, avoid superfluous and vague words and phrases that would detract from what you’re saying. Most importantly, effective communication is knowing what, when, and how to communicate with those around you. By being a good communicator, people can get to know you on a deeper and more personal level, resulting in friendship.
Establish appropriate boundaries
Remember, building relationships with coworkers is so that the workload goes faster and getting through it becomes more efficient. If, instead, you use the workplace to pick up a romantic relationship, it will complicate not only how you relate to the individual you’re now seeing, but the dynamic between you and the other workers. Keeping in mind that the workplace is the environment to develop strategies to work better, instead of a place to find new drinking buddies is helpful for drawing those lines.
Learning how to separate professional and personal relationships
In some cases, you may be privy to more knowledge about a situation than your coworker friend, and you’ll be faced with the choice of either sharing what you know even though it’s detrimental for the information to be shared, or keeping the information from your friend but dealing with feelings of betrayal. Or you may be in a scenario where you and your friend are competing and being ranked against each other. A necessary skill is learning how to celebrate your friend’s success when they do better than you, and how to maintain friendship through jealousy which may result from doing better than your friends.
Also published on Medium.