• Leah Norman

Managing Workplace Friendships

Some workplace friendships lead to better engagement and collaboration but others can be a major distraction


While some workplace friendships have a positive impact on productivity, others can end up being a major distraction – for many of our clients, the issue lies in controlling those which cause a problem and encouraging the ones which keep employees happy. Friendships are an incredibly important part of the workplace cultural environment where people are able to emotionally buy into it and own it. When our employees feel a deep sense of belonging and friendship with the people they work with every day, they’re more likely to invest, more likely to strive to do well and are more likely to support their colleagues. However, while experience will show us that having a best friend at work can increase productivity and overall engagement, it’s also clear that some friendships can be more sinister. From a employment perspective, workplaces should encourage these friendships but only the ones which are kept in their place. They can quickly become a problem when they’re encouraging unacceptable workplace behaviour like skiving off, wallowing in misery, negative feeling toward other employees, gossiping or just generally being unproductive. If a close workplace friendship becomes destructive, employers have a responsibility to step in – but doing so without being seen as the ‘fun police’ can be a difficult task. Where ever possible it is advise that employer's re-frame the issue focusing on behaviours that are unacceptable and whether they’re committed by friends or by any other individual is irrelevant.


Remember it's the behaviour that has to stop, not the friendship. My advice to clients is to remind their employees that – first and foremost – they’re here to behave in a way that enables the best possible outcome for shareholders, customers and the employees themselves. If a friendship is holding employees back from serving those people faithfully and its preventing them from being the best possible version of themselves, then it’s a problem.


Disclaimer This article, and any information contained on our website is necessarily brief and general in nature, and should not be substituted for professional advice. You should always seek professional advice before taking any action in relation to the matters addressed.