Is HR Wrong? Are Friendships at Work Really a No-No?

Ever since I started work 25 years ago, I’ve been told by HR not to get too friendly with my coworkers or my boss. Stern HR policies were sent throughout the office with specific rules about friendships and romances on-the-job. While I understand the potential legal risks, I also know that I met my wife of twenty years at my first job and have scores of great friends from work.

With so much attention being paid to the importance of employee engagement, every team leader should know that a recent Gallup poll found the following:

  • Those employees with close friendships at work were 50% more satisfied than those without
  • If they had a best friend at work they were 7x’s more likely to engage fully in their job
So, friendships at work should be a yes-yes. The key is to build a sense of community where people care about and enjoy one another. Zappos, the online shoe retailer, has put this into practice by encouraging friendships and fun. Fostering a sense of camaraderie is part of the Zappos culture, costs very little to implement and results in a positive environment where employees feel a common sense of purpose.

Where do you start? With the organization’s leaders. At Southwest where this kind of culture is encouraged, company leaders model the culture. They take time to get to know their employees, treat everyone with respect, and put their people first. They understand that trust, collaboration, and personal relationships support an organization where people work together because they want to and because they share a common vision.

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