Social Connections and The Importance of Workplace Relationships

Social SupportIssue: We are forming fewer friendships than in the past.

Many of us are stressed out with too much to do and not enough time to do it in.  As life gets busier, our social network often gets smaller and smaller.  We barely have enough time for ourselves or our families, let alone staying connected with our true friends.

In previous decades, work was a major source of friendships. There were company sponsored picnics, sports teams and holiday dances.  Now, we go to the office to be efficient and productive, but not to be social.  We talk and we problem solve, but fewer meaningful relationships are being built.

The number of workers who felt they had someone with whom they could discuss important matters with has dropped significantly with 25% of people saying that they had no one they could discuss such important issues with.


Why Are Friends Good For Us?:

According to an Australian study by the Centre for Aging Studies at Flinders University, those who had a large network of friends outlived those with the fewest friends by 22%.

“This occurs because the companionship provided by friends may ward off depression, boost self-esteem, and provide support. People with social support from friends have fewer cardiovascular and immune problems, and lower levels of cortisol.  People with social connections seem to feel more relaxed and at peace, which are all related to better health.”



Types Of Relationships:


A casual friend or acquaintance is someone you interact with on occasion or even on a regular basis, but

a personal relationship has not developed.  Many of us may have these acquaintances or Single-Serving Friends through our workplaces. These are an important part of the workplace, but because long-term employment has essentially vanished it may be difficult for us to develop deeper relationships. We expect to change jobs every few year and since we do not plan to stick around, we do not invest in the same way.  In order to tell the differences between a work friend and a real friend, here are some questions to ask:

•   If your friend left the company, would you still be in touch with them in a year?
•   If you had a personal emergency, would you consider asking your friend for help?
•   Do you and your friend have anything in common besides your age and your job?


Mentors are people who share their knowledge and experience with us. They be older or have worked at the company longer. Mentors help us navigate our career by sharing their strategies and stories and provide valuable connection through their support.


A friend is someone you have developed a personal relationship with by spending time together and bonding over your circumstances. Friendships are fluid and changing, so it’s not unusual to see them go through stages of closeness. Friends are a positive influence in your life. Real friends make you feel good, as opposed to bringing you down. People who are genuinely your friend put your relationship above being right or trying to feel superior.

Good Friend

A good friend is someone you would consider part of your inner circle and confidence. These are people who know the most about your life and have likely been through a few ups and downs with you.

Best Friends

Best friends are people who you are very close to and are the first person you call when you’re excited, frustrated or just want to chat. Best friends can often feel like family because they are there during the most important moments in your life.


Why Are Social Connections Important In The Workplace?

In a quest for an engaged workforce, we often look at meaningful work, leisure activities and salary, however, friendships at work may be one of the most important elements to employee engagement and retention.

“One of the 10 Important Elements Of Organizational Culture is social support, however it is often one of the most neglected areas of workplace culture. It is seen as an ‘extra’, a social nicety, or something to focus on if you have time.”


Being socially connected at work helps in buffering against the stress of deadlines, customer service issues and setbacks. Work becomes a more enjoyable place to go because you feel appreciated and cared about. Even if you are working at a less than ideal job, having friends at work can make the days go faster and encourage creativity and problem-solving. With an outlet to release your anger, you will rebound quicker when setbacks at work occur.  With a safe outlet to release your anger and frustrations, you will rebound quicker when setbacks at work occur.

A Gallup survey found that close work friendships boosted employee satisfaction by 50% and people with a best friend at work were seven times more likely to be fully engaged in their work.

Another survey by the Gallup organization looking at The Twelve Key Dimensions That Describe Great Workgroups said that of employees who not only had friends at work, but who had a best friend there were:

  • 43% more likely to report having received praise or recognition for their work in the last seven days
  • 37% more likely to report that someone at work encourages their development
  • 27% more likely to report that the mission of their company makes them feel their job is important
  • 27% more likely to report that their opinions seem to count at work
  • 21% more likely to report that at work, they have the opportunity to do what they do best every day


What Can Organizations Do To Promote Social Connection?

Have you ever watched how your kids connect at the playground or on the soccer field. They say ‘hi’ and off they go. They ask questions. They share ideas. They are fascinated and engaged in the conversation and interaction.

It is more challenging for adults, especially in the workplace.  Our guard is up. We don’t reveal too much because it may be used against us or reflect badly on us in some way.


Start With Building A Positive Culture.

Some companies — among them Zappos, Google, DaVita, Dropbox, and Southwest — have built reputations for fostering comradeship at work. Camaraderie at work includes mutual respect, sense of identity, and admiration to push for hard work and outcomes. Creating comradeship at work hinges on the leaders of organizations understanding that workplace relationship enhance their competitive advantage for recruiting top employees, retaining employees, and improving engagement, creativity, and productivity. Many companies are engaging in corporate challenges, wellness competitions, community service events, and other activities to help build a sense of teamwork and togetherness.

Sometimes employees hold themselves back for fear of being thought of as unprofessional  or not as productive. A progressive leader can encourage employees to be friends by discussing it openly and modeling positive relationships.


An example:

A leader can dedicate a set amount of time for employees to regularly interact through fun activities that everyone can participate in. Typical birthday recognition is handled through a signed card from teammates or having a luncheon. However, one company has the birthday person do something extra  like talking about their favorite birthday memory, sharing their plans or goals for the upcoming year or having one person say something nice about that particular person. The objective of the celebration is to give the employee some positive attention while also helping the group get to know them better.


Are There Downsides To Friendships At Work?

Absolutely. There can be professional jealousy, negative cliques, split loyalties, loss of work time due to excessive socializing and consequences from broken friendships. However, these are all manageable by a proactive leader.


How To Get Along With Everyone In The Workplace

It is not possible to get along with everyone at work. There are just some people that you will not be able to positively connect with.  There will be times that you will need to assert your opinion and that may be different from others.

“The key to getting along is to know how to communicate in a way that maintains the other person’s trust and dignity. A quote that I like says “Say what you mean, mean what you say, but don’t be mean when you say it.” It is about communicating in a way that lets the other person hear what you have to say without being argumentative.”


One of the greatest gifts that we can give to another is the gift of encouragement. Build others up and truly value the contributions that they make. You do not need to be best friends with everyone at work, but communicating in a positive way can help to build a positive, productive and enjoyable place to work.

Be careful about bonding over negative situations like hating your job or your boss. You might think that this is the perfect opportunity to bond, since you both feel the same way, but it can set a bad tone for your friendship right from the start and increase the negativity that you feel.

It is not realistic to like or love everyone that we work with.  If the ones around you are causing so much stress for you that it is taking away the love and appreciation for the job that you have, then it may be time to look for alternatives.  You may need to look for a different job or switch to a different department. The stress from negative workplace relationships can increase the risk for mental health issues as well as cardiovascular issues.


Impact Of Working Remotely Or On Flex Hours

There is s concern over the rise of flextime and virtual work with a decrease in workplace social connection.  But a comprehensive analysis of 46 studies of over 12,000 employees demonstrated that as long as people were in the office for at least two and a half days per week, “telecommuting had no generally detrimental effects on the quality of workplace relationships.”

If you are not in the office that often or you work solo, it is even more important to develop a solid friendship circle.

“Often my husband would come home from his workplace needing to unwind and just have some space, but because I had been ‘alone’ all day, I often jumped right into conversation which he was not ready for.  I needed to hold back until the time was right for us to connect.  One thing that I did to counterbalance this need to connect right away, was to touch base with him in the middle of the day so that I can express any frustration or excitement that I had about a project.  This allowed me to be more patient about reconnecting at the end of the day.”


Working alone may mean that it is even more important to find like-minded people to connect and bounce ideas off of.  A business or professional association can provide time for people who understand your unique challenges and to develop social relationships.


How Do You Build Meaningful Friendships?

“The saying goes that you can’t have too many friends.  I disagree.  Developing and maintaining good friendships takes effort.  They require an investment of time. Friendships take time to grow, to build trust and to share common experiences.”



Beverly’s Tips:

  • First, take stock of the friends that you currently have.  Do you have too few, just enough or too many to currently maintain?
  • If you decide that you want to be more socially connected, make a list of the qualities that you cherish in a friend.  Who have you had the best relationships with?
  • Look for more people who have the characteristics that you are looking for.  Where do these people hang out? Is there a local coffee shop that you can spend time at while you are working? Can you join a morning walking club? One of the best ways to meet new friends is when you go outside your comfort zone and do something new. First of all, you’ll be meeting new people you probably would never have crossed paths with and second, you’ll be in the mood to experience something out of the ordinary.
  • Be open to starting a new friendship.  They take time to develop and may start very slowly at first.
  • Maintain the friendships that you already have.  Plan a get together.  Pick up the phone.  Invest some time and effort into those friendships that you want to  hang on to.
  • Friendships can last a lifetime or be specific to a time in our life – however long, they are valuable.


Cultivating True Friendships:

  • Start by finding common ground when making an initial connection, but do not over-share about things like romantic relationships or gossip about others in your office, as this can become uncomfortable for the other person
  • Listen to your intuition – true friends give off a positive energy that make us feel good as opposed to drain us – Evaluate your friendships
    Does the conversation flow easily, or is it forced?
    Do you feel they truly understand, accept and support you?
    Do you feel you truly understand, accept and support them?
    Do you feel better or worse about yourself when you’re with them?
  • Listen with your heart – When dealing with friends, it’s important to give as well as to receive. Listen to the emotion in what is being said
  • Make the time – though life can get away from us we should never let our friendships get away from us – friendships take energy and time to nurture and to keep fresh
  • Learn to let go – our friends are no more perfect than we are. We need to ignore those imperfections and learn to celebrate their positive traits that brought us together . Part of the benefits of having an office friend is that they are there to encourage you. Feel free to offer up your support to a pal when they are having a bad day or just deserve some extra recognition


Do you need someone to work with your leaders on developing a supportive culture?
If so, Beverly Can Provide This Training. Please feel free to call and discuss the details at: 705-786-0437


If you have some strategies to share – comment on this posting!

Additional Resources:

Make A Friend Day

Social Wellness

International Friendship Week

Girlfriend’s Day

Family Day

 Cheer Up The Lonely Day

Be An Angel Day

Love Note Day



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Written by Beverly Beuermann-King

Building Resiliency Through Stress and Wellness Strategies. Stress and resiliency strategist, Beverly Beuermann-King, CSP, translates current research and best practices information into a realistic, accessible and more practical approach through her dynamic stress and wellness workshops, on-line stress and resiliency articles, books, e-briefs and media interviews.

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