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Work Friends

Work FriendsHaving Work Friends Can Be Tricky, but It’s Worth It

How often have you had the following conversation at work?

How are you?
Good. You?
Fine.

It is a script we stick to even if we are dying inside.

It’s hard to build real connections with your colleagues if you never get beyond superficial chit-chat. And yet people who have a “best friend at work” are not only more likely to be happier and healthier, they are also seven times as likely to be engaged in their job. What’s more, employees who report having friends at work have higher levels of productivity, retention, and job satisfaction than those who don’t.

Many companies have tried to support office bonds through perks like ping-pong tables, free lunches, or corporate retreats, but the reality is that most of us don’t have close friends at work. In a survey by Pew and the American Life Project, just 12% of respondents’ closest ties were with people from their professional life. If we expand this to people who were significant in the respondent’s life, the results aren’t wildly different. Only 19% of the people surveyed had a significant relationship with a workmate.

This phenomenon seems to be particularly American. Going on a vacation with a coworker is virtually unimaginable in America — less than 6% of workers have taken their relationship with colleagues to this level. Research by Stanford professor Hazel Markus, author of Clash: How to Thrive in a Multicultural World, suggests that this fact is probably due to our cultural propensity towards fierce independence — rather than the interdependence characteristic of many other cultures. More than one in four Poles and close to half of Indians have vacationed with a coworker. Is there something that American workers are missing? Read More

 

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