Office Friendships

A recent meta-analysis in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin analyzed 26 studies on work and friendship, concluding that teams made up of friends tended to perform better than teams made up of strangers.

That said, workplace friendships can be tricky to navigate. Jessica Methot, associate professor of human resource management at Rutgers University, has long studied such relationships. Her 2015 study also confirmed that work friendships are valuable, and that employees who experience “multiplex relationships” (i.e. genuine friendships with direct co-workers) receive higher performance reviews. But these same employees also tended to report more emotional exhaustion.

As Melissa Dahl, writing in the New York Times explained, “You’re playing two roles at once: friend and colleague. Friends unconditionally support each other, but colleagues can’t always do that, especially when their own reputation is at stake. It can be draining to have to decide which role to play, and when.”

Work advice columnist Alison Green, who answers questions about all sorts of uncomfortable office issues on her site Ask a Manager, says that if you are in an awkward situation with a work friend you are (gulp!) going to have to talk to them. It sounds simple, but we know how resistant many people are to raising delicate issues. Approached the right way, however, conscious conversations will strengthen bonds. Choose a time when you are not angry or tired, edit out accusative language, and work together to co-create a solution.