Friday Funny: On The Job Friendships Make For Happier Workers

Posted by Heidi Schwartzworkbff

A shoulder to cry on could help make the daily grind bearable for unhappy workers. That is the conclusion drawn by a study conducted by Dr. Michael Sollitto, assistant professor of communication at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. Sollitto’s research, entitled Making Friends on the Job Can Make the Difference for Unhappy Workers, revealed that having a close bond with co-workers helps frustrated employees de-stress.

Understanding this often perceived negative communication can help managers and companies better interact with employees and improve these unsatisfying conditions, Solllitto said. The research is critical as employers realize costs to replace, rehire, and retrain employees are on the rise, and as employees continue to strive for a fulfilling career.

The latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report stated that the unemployment rate in the United States is currently 5.5% (as of February 2015), with a 3.3% turnover rate (also as of February 2015). It is estimated that replacing an employee could cost an organization roughly $14,000.

“It is likely that employees would be willing to express their unhappiness with co-workers that they can relate with,” said Sollitto. “When expressing their dissent, they are often looking for support and someone who is willing to listen, which is a better alternative to quitting.”

Bonds are often formed between co-workers who are at the same place on the corporate ladder and hold the same amount of authority. Sollitto, who specializes in co-worker relationship research, says that this act is called lateral dissent. Employees who share the same amount of authority are often more comfortable confiding their dissatisfaction with each other.

In the article Benefits Of Having Friends At Work, Cherie Burach writes, “By contrast, only 4% of workers who admitted that they didn’t have a good friend in the office still managed to be content and productive at work.” Burach adds, “office friends help change an employee’s perception of the work environment for the better overall.” The data in both instances is based on a survey by the Gallup organization.

Dr. Michael Sollitto.
Dr. Michael Sollitto.

Sollitto gathered data from 120 full-time employees, 33 men, 76 women, and 11 workers who did not identify their sex. Ages of participants ranged from 19 to 65 and included top-management, management, non-management, and other staff. Employees reported working with their co-worker for one to 30 years.

“The results of this study support the idea that co-workers can serve therapeutic, supportive, and informational purposes,” said Sollitto. “And shows us the importance of creating connections with other employees who share the same work experiences.”

With this data in mind, facility managers should encourage employee coffee klatches and bonds of friendship. These relationships could very well keep staff members from quitting, thus reducing the financial strain employers would incur from searching to hire and train a replacement. In the end, good morale is good for business, and that makes everyone happy.