As I was watching the finale of Mad Men, a thought occurred. I realized that despite his good looks and suave demeanor, Don Draper didn’t have many friends. And even though Peggy has a cool, untamed charisma, she isn’t the most popular girl at the ball. Even Joan and Roger, with their magnetic charms, didn’t hold on to many personal relationships outside the office.
The few friendships these characters have are in or closely tied to the office. Arguably, lack of friendship is the least of these characters’ issues. But this lack of external friends coerces them into closer relationships with their colleagues. If Don is having an existential crisis, who does he call? Peggy. And vice versa. Who does Roger leave his fortune to? Joan. These actions elevate the relationships beyond that of coworkers. These characters are friends. But is that a good thing?
The “friend at work” argument is a hot topic, even controversial at times. For good reason, too. At first glance, it does seem counterintuitive to have a close personal relationship with someone that you might have to take off a project or give an honest opinion about in a review. The state of your relationship could skew your judgement and interests. That aligns with common conceptions of human tendency. I get it.
But Donald Clifton, educational psychologist and founder of Gallup, believes otherwise. Which is why the Q12 poll included a question about workplace productivity. Why? He asserts that it’s one of the biggest factors in employees’ productivity.
In a study conducted by Gallup, they pit two groups, one of friends and one of “acquaintances” together in two productivity tasks. The first centered on collaborative creative concepting, the second involved model-building. And the results were surprisingly cut and dried. According to New York Magazine,
“Friends were more committed at the start of a project, showed better communication while doing the activity, and offered teammates positive encouragement every step of the way. They also evaluated ideas more critically and gave one another feedback when they went off course.”
Friendships at work also statistically yield higher productivity. TED released some of their research that found a happier emotional workplace resulted in more motivated workers. Having friends at work helps employees build that environment. When we work with people with whom we have a personal relationship, more is at play than work. This “social pressure to do a good job can often serve as a stronger motivator than anything a boss can say.” Simply put, you don’t want to let down your friends.
But as a company, what can you do to help your employees find friends in other employees? In Tribe’s client work, we’ve found that when employees interact with colleagues outside the workplace context it helps break down common office barriers. Create opportunities for employees to interact in low-stress situations and allow them to form friendships organically.
Need help? Give Tribe a call. We’d be happy to help.