do benefits of workplace friendships outweigh risks?
back to overviewNew Randstad Work Watch Survey Finds Lines Between Personal and Workplace Friendships
ATLANTA, 02.23.10 – A recent Conference Board study found that only 45 percent of Americans are satisfied with their jobs. So, what are the causes of job dissatisfaction? According to a new Randstad Work Watch survey of workplace friendships, conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs, it doesn’t seem to be rooted in the people with whom we spend our workdays. In fact, American workers seem to be happier at their jobs because of the friendships they cultivate with coworkers – 67 percent reported having friends at work makes their job more fun and enjoyable and 55 percent feel that these relationships make their job more worthwhile and satisfying.
But not all friendships are created equal. Respondents characterized these friendships in a variety of ways; 38 percent said they have colleagues they consider personal friends with whom they interact inside and outside of the workplace, 32 percent described their socializing as strictly work friends, limiting interaction to the workplace and work functions, and 17 percent characterized their workplace friendships as more a matter of necessity or convenience for work purposes or alliances.
Benefits Outweigh Risks
With many pegging the current economy for stalled career growth and salary freezes, the days of workplace competition and rivalry are being replaced by teamwork and camaraderie as American workers seem to be viewing workplace friendships as possessing more benefits than risks. When asked about the greatest benefits of workplace friendships, the top responses aligned more to workplace culture, but ultimately impact a company’s bottom line.
What are believed to be the benefits of workplace friendships?
- Creates a more supportive and friendly workplace: 70%
- Increases teamwork: 69%
- Increases workplace morale: 56%
- Increases knowledge sharing and open communication: 50%
- Higher job satisfaction: 45%
- Makes employees more motivated: 36%
- Reduces employee turnover: 36%
- Creates a stronger commitment to company/organization: 32%
- Increases employee engagement: 31%
- Increases productivity/performance: 30%
When looking at results by gender, women were more likely than men to feel that workplace friendships create a more friendly and supportive atmosphere (77 percent vs. 63 percent). Likewise, women are more prone than men to view their workplace friends as personal friends they would spend leisure time with (42 percent vs. 34 percent).
At the same time, some employees do see risks in having workplace friendships, most commonly because they feed gossip (44 percent), create favoritism (37 percent), blur professional boundaries (37 percent) or create conflicts of interest (35 percent). Fewer believe that these friendships can cause others to feel uncomfortable (26 percent), reduce productivity or performance (22 percent), reduce constructive feedback/openness (19 percent) or reduce loyalty to the company (6 percent).
Managers A Bit More Cautious
Survey respondents in manager roles have a slightly different view about workplace friendships, suggesting there could be some disconnect between managers and their employees. When asked whether they support or encourage the development of friendships in the workplace, 49 percent of managers indicated they did, while only 29 percent of non-managers felt their workplace supported these relationships.
Personal, Professional Lives Blurred
Additional findings from the survey included:
- Baby Boomers (31 percent) were more likely than Gen X workers (21 percent) or Gen Y workers (19 percent) to feel that workplace friendships can make others feel uncomfortable.
- Men also were more likely than women (30 percent vs. 21 percent) to feel this way.
- Just one in ten respondents (11 percent) said that if a work friend were to make a mistake, they would be more inclined to “sweep” it under the rug than if it were some other colleague.
- The same number (11 percent) said they would side with their friend if an issue arose at work.
- Fewer (6 percent) reported that if a workplace friend were laid off, it would impact their decision to stay with their company.
Abbreviated Survey Methodology
For the survey, a national sample of 1,017 adults aged 18 and older who were currently employed from Ipsos’ U.S. online panel were interviewed online from February 1-5, 2010. Weighting was then employed to balance demographics and ensure that the sample's composition reflects that of the U.S. adult population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. A survey with an unweighted probability sample of this size and a 100% response rate would have an estimated margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points 19 times out of 20 of what the results would have been had the entire adult population of employed adults aged 18 and older in the United States had been polled.