As a manager, you may or may not decide to invest heavily in the shifting tides of employee relationships and workplace gossip. You may decide that these fluctuations have nothing to do with you, and if bonds form between friends or misunderstandings strain once strong relationships, these events don’t involve you in any way. If the work gets done, your employees are adults and they can sort out their own affairs…right?
Maybe. Friendships come and go, and the workplace is simply a microcosm of life in general. But if you do decide to invest in what’s happening around you, you may be surprised by the benefits that come your way. Encouraging employee friendships can elevate the culture and quality of your workplace and it can reduce turnover by strengthening ties between your workers and the company. And if you help employees resolve their differences and see the best in each other, they’ll respond with respect and goodwill. Here are few moves to try.
Just pay attention.
Two friends were on the outs last week, but now they’ve patched things up. Steve admires the new guy and his best work friend is a little jealous. Sally ignored Sarah’s contribution during the status meeting and accidentally hurt her feelings. Sam and Amy disagree on the direction of the project, but they don’t want to argue in front of the rest of the team. You don’t have to act on any of these things if you choose, but it’s a good idea to take mental notes and keep up.
Encourage personal time together.
Organized events (mini-golf tournaments, company-sponsored banquets, formal happy hours, etc.) may be fun, but they aren’t always the best way to foster friendships outside of the workplace. In addition to these things, encourage your teams to talk to each other elsewhere. Allow and encourage them to hold meetings at coffee shops, call each other at home, meet on the weekends, and get to know each other.
Be a “therapist” when called upon.
When two friends have a difference to resolve and they turn to you, don’t immediately extricate yourself. Encourage them to see each other’s point of view and give each other the benefit of the doubt. You don’t need to license to practice couples counseling; you just need some patience and good intentions.
With permission, share announcements of good news like weddings, births, and non-work-related accomplishments. Make personal events into community events.
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