You want your employees to get along, but what about when they really get along? Personal relationships at work create issues for HR departments everywhere. Whether it’s friendships or romantic entanglements, the interactions between employees can affect their productivity and the company dynamic as a whole. It’s important to realize and acknowledge how workplace relationships can affect employees and their performances, either positively or negatively.
Traditionally, any type of workplace relationship — romantic or platonic — has been frowned upon for several reasons.
But experts have recently found that workplace friendships can actually be good for employees, and therefore for companies. And in fact, trying to fight this tendency might turn out to be counter-productive and detrimental to workers’ well-being. The line between work and home life is thinner and more permeable than ever, with more people working longer hours. In many cases, work is their only social scenario. A recent report found that 36 percent of adults met at least one of their closest friends at work.
Friendships at work can also lead to increased productivity and decreased employee turnover. Employees are happier when they have friends at work. It’s easier to get through the day, and they’re more likely to keep working at the same place. In fact, a 2013 Australian survey found that having a “good relationship with coworkers” was the main reason (67%) for people staying at their current job, above “job satisfaction” (63%), and, perhaps more surprisingly, much higher than salary (46%).
Furthermore, companies that embrace workplace friendships as part of their culture can have a hiring advantage. They can attract candidates who are looking for that kind of closeness among staff members. Plus, teamwork can benefit from friendships within the team, since friends tend to care about helping each other beyond their regular tasks and roles.
Although it’s much trickier, the case of workplace romance can be viewed in a similar way. Like friendships, romances often bloom in the office simply because we spend so much time there. According to CareerBuilder’s 2012 annual office romance survey, 38 percent of respondents dated a coworker, and one-third of them ended up married! These numbers are hard to ignore, and as much as employers may dislike or disagree with office romances, there’s not much they can do to avoid them.
What they can do is make sure that all employees are familiar with the company’s stance on workplace relationships, and that managers know how to address it. A few ways to do this are the following:
As our lives become more and more centered on our work, relationships in the workplace are likely to increase. The best thing to do is to be prepared and keep the channels of communication open, so that employees, managers, and HR departments are all on the same page.