DESIGNING A GREAT WORKPLACE EXPERIENCE _How to turn a group of strangers into a community of friends?

Measuring workplace friendships is very important in any business for Nr. 1 reason:

It’s one of the strongest predictors of productivity. Studies show that employees with a best friend at work tend to be more focused, more passionate, and more loyal to their organizations. They get sick less often, suffer fewer accidents, and change jobs less frequently. They even have more satisfied customers.

Well … that’s more the case in real life, yet at workplace it’s quite rare that you call someone you do a good job together with, as your “Friend”. At workplace nobody has friends. In the best case scenario you havegood great co-workers you fill very comfortable to work with, you enjoy to work together, you always help each other but you are not “real frineds”. Real friends never have jobs at the same company , in the same department and the same team. However to make my point in this article I agree to continue by saying that your favorite co-worker is also your “friend”. I prefer to use the word Friend because it’s the more easy to distinguish the difference versus someone you only know by chance and occasionally work on the same projects. So let’s begin.

Why would friends be better at working together than acquaintances?

Studies showed that Friends  have better communication while doing the activity, and offered teammates positive encouragement every step of the way. Friends were more committed at the start of the project. They also evaluated ideas more critically and gave one another feedback when they were off course.

Acquaintances, on the other hand, took a different approach. They appeared to prefer working alone, engaging one another only when it was absolutely necessary. They were also less comfortable seeking help and resisted pointing out when one of their coworkers was making a mistake. Instead of fusing into a group and leveraging one anther’s strengths, their lack of connection was holding them back. They were operating in silos.

Research suggests that workplace friendships yield more productive employees, and it’s not just because friends are easier to work with. It’s also because there is more on the line. Feeling a connection with colleagues can motivate employees to work harder for a simple reason:

“When colleagues are close, a poor effort means more than a dissatisfied customer or an unhappy manager. It means letting down your friends. The social pressure to do a good job can often serve as a stronger motivator than anything a boss can say.”

Workplace friendships also benefit organizations for another reason. Employees with better friendships tend to stay on with their company for longer periods of time. In today’s world, loyalty to an organization has become an antiquated concept, one that rarely determines people’s career decisions. But when our coworkers are our friends, it suddenly becomes harder to leave. Often it’s our loyalty to our colleagues that keeps us from accepting higher salaries and better titles with another company.


As it turns out, organizations have a lot more influence over employee friendships than they recognize. To understand how companies can promote bonding between coworkers, let’s first examine some of the common ingredients at the core of successful friendships. What makes people like one another? Research suggests that there are three basic building blocks and they’re all surprisingly straightforward.

The 1st ingredient for friendship is: physical proximity. Initially, physical proximity might sound like an obvious requirement for friendship, one hardly worth mentioning, except itsimplications are profound. Consider the number of close friendships you’ve formed while living, studying, or working near people you now hold dear. How many of those relationships would have developed if the seating arrangements had been slightly different?

Physical proximity increases attraction becasuse it:

  1. Increase frequency of contact,
  2. Enhances social comparisons,
  3. Establishes common norms,
  4. Reduces development of incompatible roles.

The same observation applies to the realm of romance. Think you and your spouse were made for each other? Maybe. But if of the 7 billion of the world’s inhabitants you and your soul mate just happened to share a zip code when you first met, cosmic destiny may have had less to do with your relationship than the principle of proximity. When a coworker is often nearby, your chances of hitting it off are far greater than if the two of you work in different departments. There might be someone at your company sitting at their desk right now who could be the best friend you will ever have. But if your opportunities for interacting with that person are limited, you may live your entire life without knowing it.

The 2nd and strongest contributor to friendship is: Similarity.

Similarity attracts beacause it’s satisfying to people at both a practical and an emotional level. At a practical level, it’s handy to have a friend who enjoy the same activities they do! At an emotional level, similarity provides a sense of comfort and validation.

The more we have in common with others-whether it’s a college major, a favorite TV show, or even the same birthday-the more we tend to like them. As writer C. S. Lewis once observed, “Friendship is born at the moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? thought I was the only one,’” Why is this the case? Because similarity is reaffirming. If I like Simon Sinek and you like Simon Sinek, your opinion validates my own and makes me feel good about myself.

A 3rd friendship requirement: familiarity. On average, we tend to like people the more we see of them, and often the effect is unconscious. There’s an uncertainty we feel upon meeting someone for the first time. But with repeated exposure we develop a sense of safety and comfort around them. Which is why familiarity tends to liking. Studies show that the mere exposure effect doesn’t just affect our impressions of people. It also applies to paintings, songs, and consumer products. Ever wonder why Coca-Cola still bothers advertising when nearly everyone on the planet has already sampled their beverage? The mere exposure effect offers one perspective: The more often we see a logo, the more we tend to like (and therefore buy) the product.

In a study of best friends who managed to stay close for nearly  20 years, researchers found that the strongest predictor of long-term bonding is the level of similarity when friends first meet. The same principle applies to intimate relationships. Romantic comedies and sitcoms may try to convince us that in terms of personalities the opposites attract, but the research is conclusive: When it comes to long-term relationships similarity beats differences every time. While all friendships are founded on the pillars of proximity, familiarity, and similarity, psychologists have discovered that you can have all three elements and still not see a blossoming friendship there’s still something missing, a vital ingredient that sparks the relationship process. That ingredient? = Secrets.


If you want two people to connect, factual exchanges aren’t enough. What you need is for people to reveal intimate information about themselves in a reciprocal fashion. Having one person talk and the other listen won’t get the job done; it will simply leave one person feeling exposed. For intimacy to develop, both partners need to self-disclose. Another important feature is the observation that in close friendships the level of self-disclosure tends to escalate over time. When we first meet a friend or colleague the revelations we make tend to be fairly superficial. But as we grow closer, we become more comfortable sharing intimate details and expect our partners to do the same.The progression is important. Without deeper revelations a relationship can stall.


After all self-disclosure might be a good way of bonding with a buddy at the gym or a new neighbor. But in a competitive work environment, where everything we say and do reflects on our level of professionalism, shouldn’t we be a little more discreet? Is opening up and sharing emotionally sensitive information with coworkers really a wise approach? Research conducted suggests it is, at least if your goal is to make friends. What the research discovered is that close workplace friendships tend to follow a distinct pattern that is marked by three key transitions.

The 1st is the transition from acquaintance to friend. For the most part, all it takes for this transition to occur is working near a colleague for a period of about a year and occasionally collaborating on team projects. How can you tell if coworkers are friends? Ironically, by the amount of time they spend discussing nonworkplace topics. The more frequently colleagues talked about nonwork matters, the closer they tended to be. There’s an important lesson here for anyone interested in growing their influence in the workplace: When all you do at the office is talk shop, you might develop a reputation for being competent, but you’re not likely to end up with a whole lot of friends.

The 2nd and the 3rd transitions are, the ones that turned friends into close friends, and close friends into best friends. Here the proximity and common ground that prompted the 1st transition were nowhere near enough to catalyze a strong connection. What was? Sharing problems from one’s personal, home, and work life. The challenge for many of us, of course, is that proactively sharing potentially embarrassing information is a little like visiting an emotional casino. If your listener reciprocates with a few revelations of their own, the payoffs can be big: You stand to win a deeper and more satisfying relationship. But if your disclosure isn’t reciprocated-or worse if it’s criticized-you end up feeling exposed. And that experience is painful. The irony is that close relationships are often built upon a foundation of shared risk. It’s when we reveal our vulnerabilities that we acquire new friends.

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