Friendships happen in your neighborhood, with parents of your kid’s friends, people who take the same gym class, or a variety of other places on evenings and weekends. But, having relationships and personal connections with your co-workers are important too. According to a Gallup study, “Research has repeatedly shown a concrete link between having a best friend at work and the amount of effort employees expend in their job.” People who have a best friend at work are seven times more likely to be engaged in their jobs. “We spend more of our waking hours at work than at home, and it’s only natural that we want to build connections with our team members. We want work to feel worthwhile and having trusted confidants and supporters helps foster that feeling.”
Humans are social creatures by nature, even the introverts. Human interaction is something that we innately crave, and work can be great place to have those interactions. At work, you’re already part of a team or company where shared commonalities, interests, experiences or even goals provide you with a starting point for interaction and conversation. Continued conversations, even as minimal as chatting at the coffee bar, allows for connections that could lead to much desired interpersonal relationships or friendships.
What is a Good Friendship? Good relationships start with five key components: Trust, Mutual Respect and Kindness, Mindfulness, Welcoming Diversity, and Open Communication. When it comes to making friends at work, be yourself. You can’t pretend to be something you’re not or a different person 40 hours a week. You’d be exhausted just keeping up the façade. Be honest and realize that not everyone will click instantaneously. You also don’t have to rush into a friendship with a co-worker. They’ll be there next week, and the week after, and the week after that.
Want to be best friends with your boss? This one is a little tricky. You can share stories and hang out after hours. But when it comes down to brass tax, your boss is still your boss. Respect the boundaries your supervisor sets when it comes to friendship. Let them take the lead so that lines aren’t crossed, and feelings don’t get hurt.
From the company perspective, how can your organization foster an environment that encourages interpersonal relationships? Gallup recommends:
- Promote open communication and collaboration.
Your employees work together on a team. Encouraging open communication and collaboration can cultivate potential friendships. When employees can speak openly and share ideas, they build trust and respect for one another.
- Encourage people to get to know one another.
Different teams or work groups occasionally work together. Leadership can help these teams get to know each other better and create opportunities for personal connections. Ice breakers before group meetings seems cheesy, but also allows for tidbits of personal information to be shared. Creating opportunities for community service as a group during the workday can allow employees to bond and meet other employees from different departments all while doing something worthwhile.
- Promote and participate in social activities.
Company culture that includes opportunities for social activity encourages socialization and relationship building. An annual holiday party or company picnic where leadership attends, shows employees interpersonal relationships at work are an important part of your company’s culture. “Beyond the larger celebrations, leaders must also let employees see leaders taking lunch breaks together or visiting with managers and other employees. Small acts can make big impressions,” suggests the Gallup study.
In the end, being open, honest and available helps foster better interpersonal relationships and even friendship at the office. Don’t always say no to the lunch out of the office or a group activity after work. Attend the company picnic and engage in conversation while stirring your coffee or grabbing water from the breakroom. Work is where you spend most of your waking hours. Having an investment in interpersonal relationships at the office will lead to a happier and more satisfied feeling when you leave at the end of the day.