Often people don’t understand the importance of cultivating relationships at work. Many are so focused on doing the work, while trying to excel and be noticed, that they neglect cultivating relationships.

According to Lydia Dishman of Fast Company (Why Having Friends at Work is So Important), there is a growing trend for many in the workplace to not invest in friendships. She writes: “Not only are we less likely to forge friendships in the office, we tend to eschew the niceties of interaction in favor of productivity.”

We are sometimes worried that cultivating relationships will take too much time away from achieving our goals. However, research shows that

having friends at work is not only key to your personal happiness, but it’s vital for having a successful career. In fact, it makes you seven times more likely to be engaged in your job. — (CNBC)

I have also personally noticed that having friends at work may help overcome periods of uncertainty or low job satisfaction and motivation.

In the Harvard Business Review article To Be Happier at Work, Invest More in Your Relationships, Dr. Rob Cross, professor of Global Leadership at Babson College, shares the results of his research. He writes that

“our understanding of what leads to professional satisfaction is often misplaced. People tend to overestimate the importance of the what when they should be focusing on the who

In interviews with a diverse group of 160 people from a variety of industries and positions, Cross and colleagues found that

flourishing in your career depends as much on your relationships, both in and out of work, as it does on your job itself. People whose work is mundane or demanding are just as likely to feel satisfied and fulfilled as those with fun or inspiring jobs if they proactively invest in relationships that nourish them and create a sense of purpose.

Studies show that social connections play a central role in fostering a sense of purpose and well-being in the workplace. They also impact the bottom line: Effective management of social capital within organizations facilitates learning and knowledge sharing, increases employee retention and engagement, reduces burnout, sparks innovation, and improves employee and organizational performance.

Relationship building is not only important at work but also outside. Dr. Cross notes that

It is essential to invest in meaningful relationships outside of work… People who thrive are anchored in at least one or two nonwork communities. This is more than blowing off steam on a treadmill or reading a book alone at night. Pick an activity you want to invest time in and do it with a group. Better yet, set goals with other members of the group so that you commit to persisting. Making time for nonwork commitments is not just fulfilling; it also helps sustain your mental and physical energy.

The value of relationship outside work helps us maintain our “identity stability”.

Relationships outside work broaden our perspective and tap into aspects of our identity that don’t rise and fall with how well things are going in the office.

His conclusion is also worth noticing:

…extensive research shows that it’s people, not the perfect job, that lead to fulfillment.

By being clear on our north star purpose, anchoring ourselves in relationships that lead us there, and buffering against those that pull us away, we can find the satisfaction we’re seeking right where we are

Similarly, a recent study by staffing firm Robert Half, which evaluated the happiness levels of more than 12,000 working professionals, shows that happier workers have closer relationships with co-workers.

According to that study, employees who have good relationships with their co-workers are 2.5 times more likely to be happy on the job than those who don’t get along well with their peers. Similarly, a Gallup poll found that close work friendships increases employee satisfaction by 50%.

“Relationships are one of the best predictors of happiness in any field,” says Christine Carter, author of The Sweet Spot: How to Find Your Groove at Home and Work. To form authentic connections with co-workers we should “take an interest in their lives outside of work.”

Relationships take time to build and grow, but they are worthwhile, and can make our work life happier and more successful.


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