Should Work Friendships be a Management Objective?

Strengthening relationships with friends is a popular New Year’s Resolution. It comes as little surprise – research has documented a strong link between quality friendships and happiness, well-being, and even health. But surprisingly, friendships at work appear to be on the decline. A few hip corporate cultures encourage workers to authentically blend the personal and professional. For example, inside Facebook, colleagues use the platform for daily work collaboration, placing their latest athletic achievement or party pictures alongside project objectives and team management. But even in those environments, younger workers often maintain private Snapchat accounts for their true friends, where pictures and videos are privately shared with a select few, keeping the truly personal personal. Most professionals outside of the Tech sector would never consider inviting their colleagues into their Facebook lives, never mind their inner circle of true friends.

So why have work friends vanished? Some point to the decline of long-term employment, eroding the time needed to develop work friends or possibly making that time investment in work friends more risky. Others note the rise of communication technologies that make it easier to maintain old and physically distant friendships. Sometimes true friendship and professionalism sometimes appear at odds with each other, even if many see the importance of building networks and even “bonding” with workmakes.

Whatever the reason, organizations often place employee interest in friendship in the same category as employee hobbies or religious involvement – something to accommodate but not actively promote. Others invest in team development, providing opportunities for teams to socialize and bond, but few employees would view those experiences as opportunities to develop true friendships. So should managers view work friendships – both for themselves and their subordinates – as business objectives?

In a recent interview, Derek Young of Fidelity Institutional highlights friendship as an important element of his five management principles. He argdyues that workplace friendship has business value and suggests that building friendships among team members is the ultimate measure of a successful manager. [click here for entire post and video]

Leadership Notes is a blog and video series on leadership.  Through interviews with leaders from both the private and public sector, Johnson examines key leadership issues like empowerment, team development, and cultural dexterity.  The blog also addresses topics such as learning from failure, the importance of friendship, and the role leaders play in developing organizational culture.

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