Should You Get Drinks With Your Coworkers?

In school, we’re told to make friends,  but at work, the question becomes can I be your friend?  A new survey finds 74% of employees consider coworkers friend and one in five believe their colleagues have an inappropriate relationship.

Fierce, Inc. surveyed over a thousand individuals to get to the heart of the impact friendship and romance has in the workplace. Below is their findings on office friendships and office romances and what your boss really thinks about it all.

When most of us think of office relationships, we think of romance. While romantic relationships can impact a work environment, research reveals that all types of relationships with co-workers are playing an increasingly significant role in job satisfaction. In a new study released today by leadership development and training experts Fierce, Inc., over a thousand individuals were surveyed to gain insight into the impact of relationships with co-workers.

Coworker or Friend?

While the line between friend and coworker can be thin, most employees have embraced the dual title for those they work with. Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed consider two or more coworkers friends, with no significant differences between male and female respondents. Fierce has found in working with clients that the most productive employees have a best friend at work. Not a friend, not even a good friend, but a best friend. This detail was highlighted as well in a 1999 Gallop poll discovered that having a best friend at work pinpoints a dynamic of great workgroups.

Whether certain individuals are friends or not, the Fierce survey found that coworkers affect job satisfaction:
● Just 1 in 5 believe coworkers have no impact on their job satisfaction
● Two-thirds note their coworkers make their jobs more enjoyable
● For those indicating they are happy in their current role, only 7% say their coworkers make their job less enjoyable
● For those who are unhappy in their role, that number increases to 30%.

“There is no doubt that our relationships with co-workers have a significant effect on our attitudes toward our jobs,” said Susan Scott, Founder, and CEO of Fierce, Inc. “Are we happy to see our team members when we walk in the door each day? Is there a best friend in the mix? Do our relationships with coworkers create an environment that is fun to be a part of, or do toxic individuals make going to the office unbearable? The survey data is important for company leaders to pay attention to. Since employee satisfaction is intrinsically tied to the relationships between coworkers, what can leaders do to enrich those relationships? Creating an environment in which friendships can develop is a good start.”

Socializing on the Job

For many, the occasional happy hour or social lunch out of the office are valuable opportunities to connect with coworkers. However, less than 50 percent of those surveyed believe their bosses are supportive of employees socializing outside of the office.

This is an area of disconnect between management and employees: only 44 percent of those in entry level positions believe their bosses are supportive of socializing, while nearly 60 percent of senior management believe the same.

This impacts satisfaction as well: of those unhappy in their current role, 28 percent say their organization is unsupportive of socializing outside of work; just four percent of those who are happy feel the same. If organizations are in fact supportive of these relationships, these results indicate there is more that can be done to communicate the support that is there.

Romance on the Job

While friendships at work seem to be flourishing, just a quarter of those surveyed admits to having engaged in an office romance. Those at the top of an organization (owners, executives, and c-level staff), have the highest occurrence at nearly 40 percent. While it seems age would play a factor in this finding, as individuals in higher level roles are more likely to have had more years in the workplace, survey respondents 45 and older saw no greater occurrences of office romances than other ages.

Is it Allowed to Date your Coworker?

While over 50 percent of senior management note romantic relationships are allowed at their organizations, only 30 percent of those in entry-level positions believe the same, signaling another significant discrepancy in communication between job levels.

● Nearly 40 percent of all those surveyed are unsure of their organization’s policies
● Over a third claim their organizations allow romantic relationships between co-workers

“While communicating across an organization about an upcoming product release or re-branding is clearly necessary, so is ensuring that your employees understand the rules and expectations of an organization’s policy regarding workplaces romances,” continued Scott.

“These survey results highlight the lack of transparency around this topic, from small businesses to Fortune 500 organizations.”

Stepping over the line?

An interesting discovery was that 1 in 5 respondents believe someone they work with has what they would consider an inappropriate relationship. As for being a distraction, office romances were seen as more distracting than close friendships, although nearly 40 percent of respondents noted neither are distracting. This is another area in which clarity around what is appropriate and what isn’t could benefit an organization.

“The results of this survey confirmed what we emphasize at Fierce- that relationships amongst coworkers impact job satisfaction in a real way. Organizations need to be more transparent with company policies, and encouraging social interaction amongst co-workers is good for everyone,” said Scott. “Of course, we believe that the conversation is the relationship, hence our focus on enhancing the outcomes of all conversations in the workplace.”

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