Workplace Friendship: Leaders Can Enhance Performance If Your People Have Friends At Work

Have you ever worked with your friends in a team or an organization? Was it a good memory or a bad memory? In the workplace, many people prefer to work with the company of friends over that of strangers or acquaintances. The benefits of working with friends often come with a good memories for everyone. For example, people could succeed in group projects based on interpersonal trust and acceptance among friends. Working with your friendship group helps you know each other's strengths and weaknesses to figure out better how to break up the work efficiently. However, this is not always necessarily the case. If you had an experience of not getting good results in a group project with your friends, you might have a low task conflict (i.e., less divergent thinking with fewer diverse perspectives) in the group work with friends.

Given that there is a possibility of getting pros and cons to working with friends regarding your group performance, our research team published a relevant study at Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. By conducting the statistical method called a meta-analysis, we addressed the question of whether working with friends leads to better group performance or not. In the study, we compared the effect of friendship groups versus acquaintance or stranger groups and analyzed the results of 26 different studies, including 1,106 groups with 3,467 participants. We mainly found that friendship has a significant positive effect on group task performance (i.e., teams with friends performed better on group tasks than with acquaintances). Additionally, we had an intriguing finding such that friendship groups did better in specific tasks where the goal was to produce the most output but did not have an advantage when the goal was to find the optimal solution to a problem.

Our research findings highlight the evidence that workplace friendship enhances your team's performance. Why? When we are working with friends, people tend to be in a better mood and can work through the adversity and strain that sometimes comes from having to produce a lot in a short time. Also, your friends are helpful when you're about to lose your motivation during the task because they can help you keep committing to work and maintaining accountability. Because friends can derive a sense of understanding, caring and acceptance from their relationships, these positive ties inherently satisfy the need to belong in a group.

Then, how do leaders consider formulating your team's friendship for your followers? Our results suggest that leaders should consider having social events (but not necessarily to be mandatory) and team-building exercises that encourage and breed friendships in the team. If your employees know each other better, even if they are getting along in a non-work environment, it may have long-term benefits for productivity. Therefore, it is worth thinking about how we may want to balance opportunities for friends to socialize and making sure that they don't spend too much time being distracted from work.

Do you now have a different idea about making your friends on the team? If you can make the right workplace environment with friends, you can create a better performing team.

Article based on:

Chung, S., Lount Jr, R. B., Park, H. M., & Park, E. S. (2018). Friends with performance benefits: A meta-analysis on the relationship between friendship and group performance. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin44(1), 63-79.

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