The Pros and Cons of Developing Out-of-Office Friendships with Your Employees

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Having friends enriches our lives and makes us feel more connected to the world. Being friendly with coworkers can help make work more enjoyable and satisfying. But should the two mix? How far should work friendships go? Here are the pros and cons of developing out-of-the-office friendships with your employees.
Socializing
Pro: Having a friend at work can make the day go by faster. It can be more enjoyable and having someone to bounce ideas off of can get your creative ideas flowing. Some studies suggest that employee productivity and satisfaction can be boosted by as much as 50% because of close friendships at work.

Con: According to an article on monster.com’s Career Advice section, too much socializing will impede productivity. Information can be revealed to inappropriate people, whether it’s another coworker finding out your personal information, or someone sharing your pitch for a promotion before you’re ready.

Stability
Pro: Lifelong friends will see you through many jobs and life transitions. Having a good support group will help you feel stable and secure through life’s changes. People with more friends tend to have higher self-esteem and feel more able to cope with the stresses of life.

Con: If your friends work at the same place you do, having to choose between your friends and your job may put you in a difficult situation. If one of you has to be forced out of a position due to downsizing or restructuring, or if one has to provide criticism of the other’s work, it can sour the friendship.

Team Building
Pro: Whether you sit next to someone every day or you met an employee at a work outing for your company’s employee appreciation programs and hit it off, building out-of-the-office friendships with your coworkers can strengthen relationships. Team-based work groups are becoming more popular and the stronger the team is the better the work. Spending more time with your teammates means you’ll know each other better, and can support each others’ strengths and weaknesses better.

Con: Anyone who feels “out of the loop” may begin to resent the friendship. If the environment at the office begins to feel cliquish to others, it can be damaging to morale. Team projects may suffer, and productivity will be at risk. If the boss is included in the group, favoritism and unfair treatment may be suspected.

Greater Understanding
Pro: Friends at work will understand you more than others. They know what you are dealing with on a daily basis and will share in your frustrations and celebrate your accomplishments.

Con: Letting an employee know too much about you can leave you vulnerable if the relationship goes south. Information you shared during private moments can be used against you down the line. Be careful who you trust and what you share.

Is it worth it?
Deciding whether or not to let an office friendship travel out of the office isn’t easy. It depends a great deal on the person you are dealing with and the environment of the office. If it is a very small place with only a handful of people, soured friendships can spoil the mood of the entire office.

An article in the Houston Chronicle notes an additional point to be cautious of: social media. If you spend time with your employees outside of the office, are they posting pictures of you on Facebook, or Tweeting your activities for all to see? The more you share with coworkers, the less control you will have over what is shared online and ultimately what your boss or supervisor is seeing about you. Friendships can work, but proceed with caution.

 

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