Bonding Over Work.
by Denise Berger
Do you have a close friend or group of friends in the office? You probably go to lunch together. You are LinkedIn and, not only you, but all your friends are tied together through Facebook. Almost daily you grab a coffee break at the same time. You share your hopes for your careers, your frustrations, what you hate about your boss, and what you admire. You begin to share your salary information; you talk about your families, your outside friends and interests and about love. Maybe you even cry on each other’s shoulder. You have been witness to each other’s weddings, perhaps the birth of children. And you catch yourself thinking sometimes, “How did I get so lucky to meet such a close friend at work- a total BFF!!! They are so hard to come by.”
Does it work to have a BFF at work? A Gallup poll in 2006 shows that, in fact, close friendships at work correlate with higher profitability, trust and higher customer engagement! BNet reported on a survey done by Accoutemps in 2007 that 63% of employees believe in a productivity increase when colleagues are friends. Wow! Don’t throw away that coffee pot and machine, or the water cooler, just yet… forming close relationships and being able to socialize during the work day with colleagues breed better results through a greater sense of belonging, shared goals, and improved communications. In 2007, the Business Ledger reported on a book citing that employees with close friends at work were seven times more likely to be engaged in the job.
But what about the common belief that personal life should be kept separate from professional life? In the same Accoutemps survey, executives apparently do not believe so much in the link between productivity and relationships, unless there is a direct correlation to NOI (net operating profit). And, unfortunately, not everyone has the best of intentions and the adage, “it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there,” still rings true. Some people believe that sharing salary information and letting someone into your life outside the office is, well, like mixing church with school - very taboo and threatening. We can almost look at this debate as a generational issue. Some argue that keeping the two lives separate came about in an era when people spent more of their time outside of the office connecting with neighbors and family. Nowadays people feel lonely and isolated if they do not bond and connect at work because it makes up more of the hours in a day than R&R outside the office. And certainly, Gen X created internet connectivity and Gen Yers are capitalizing on it – blogging and writing daily about seemingly minute activities and goings-on. This all serves to keep them well-connected with colleagues, both former and present, friends and family. Thus, they crave it and foster it and have become quite gifted at networking. So, while Gen Xers (born between 1966 and 1980) are still guarded about sharing personal information with colleagues, Gen Yers are opening those flood-gates amongst themselves, non-discriminately. Is that wise? Or is it that the rules of friendship and camaraderie, and the definition of what it means to be a colleague, are changing?