We all get by with a little help from our friends. You know the ones – those special people in our lives with whom we share our ups and downs, a solid sense of trust and loyalty (and a healthy helping of side-splitting humor for good measure). But, is it possible to form these close, strong friendships with our work colleagues – and how does it affect our team performance?
With the ever-growing collaborative nature of our modern workspaces, being part of a strong and tight-knit team can prove to be the difference between productivity and success – or a distinct lack of motivation and drive. Naturally, some people like to keep their professional and personal lives separate. However, when we spend so much time with our colleagues every single week, nurturing rewarding friendships with our teammates actually improves our sense of well-being at work, as well as our productivity.
A recent study conducted into friendship and teamwork showed that friendship resulted in a big boost to team performance. Teammates who become friends come to truly value each other’s skills and traits. As such, these colleagues get to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses far better, and can therefore coordinate tasks more effectively. The study was led by Seunghoo Chung, a doctoral student in management and human resources at Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business.
“When you’re working with friends, you 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,” Chung said.
Strong teamwork naturally fosters friendship between colleagues. Being able to nurture these friendships can do wonders for your motivation to achieve great things alongside your teammates.
Have you ever heard the phrase ‘it’s the people you work with that make your job’? Well, it’s because it’s true. With many of us working 40 hours a week or more, we can spend more time with our colleagues than we do our own friends and family in any given week. Being able to genuinely enjoy the company of those you work closely with can have a powerful impact on your job satisfaction; you’re more likely to fall out of love with your job if you’re miserable around your teammates.
Of course, this isn’t always that easy. There will be many times in your life where you need to learn to adapt and work positively alongside colleagues you don’t see eye-to-eye with; or simply, just don’t like. It’s still possible to find common ground with these people – for example, you’re likely to share a common goal of commitment to achieving successful results for your team, enabling you to work in relative harmony together, despite your differences. However, if you’re lucky enough to enjoy the company of your team and form real friendships with these people, it will have a significantly positive effect on the quality of the work you produce and your sense of contentment within your organization.
Teams ultimately achieve more together. In today’s cut-throat world of strong competition, the majority of people are, in all honesty, looking out for number one. But whilst we’re all focused on growing our own careers, growing success from within your company doesn’t just boil down to one individual – it comes from a collective team of individuals, all pulling together towards one shared goal.
There’s a reason so many companies take part in ‘team building’ exercises to help develop the bonds between their staff. Team members must be able to identify the different skills and talents within their colleagues and understand how everyone’s strengths and weaknesses can gel together. Friends are more likely to see the other person’s strengths as compliments to their weaknesses, rather than a threat to their position or authority. This helps to foster an environment of trust and respect, rather than of hostility which, in bad cases, can lead to a toxic working environment for your team. This, in turn, can cause rifts and discontent between colleagues who should be working effectively together.
The greatest teams see each of their teammates as specialists in their own skills and know just where everyone fits within the larger team. This allows your own strengths to shine, whilst your colleagues’ fill in the other pieces of the team puzzle.
For managers, encouraging friendships to blossom amongst their teams and employees will not only help to promote a positive and optimistic office culture, but research has shown it can have long-term benefits on productivity. However, it’s not surprising that managers will want colleagues to maintain a balance between water cooler bonding and genuine team productivity. However, being friends with your colleagues doesn’t have to mean such a black and white difference between working hard and slacking. In fact, those relaxing happy hour drinks after work, where you can kick back and switch off with your work friends, will actually help you get to know each other further. By strengthening your bonds, you can then tackle your team projects the next day with a shared sense of ambition, trust, and enjoyment.
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