Thursday, March 22, 2018

Let’s Get Real: The Significance of Office Friendships

We all juggle multiple roles in life: friend, spouse, parent, and colleague to name a few. Research shows that the more of our genuine selves we can bring to each role, the happier we are. This is because we all want others to see us for who we really are. It is especially true in the workplace; it’s one reason why ‘casual Friday’ dress codes are so popular, and why we like to personalize our desktops with photos and other knick-knacks. These are a form of self-expression where we can provide colleagues with a glimpse of our true selves away from the office.

The results of a new study co-authored by CEIBS Professor of Management Tae-Yeol Kim shows that companies will also be happier when employees feel that co-workers see them as who they really are, because they will see better work performance and more cooperative behaviours. The key ingredients for achieving this state, which academics refer to as self-verification perceptions, are friendships with co-workers and a high degree of person-organization fit, which means employees and employer share the same values.

For their study, the researchers surveyed a group of supervisors and employees at three hotels in South Korea. Employees were asked questions like “My personal values match my organization’s values and culture,” in order to measure their view of how well matched they are with their company. Questions like “At work, people accept me for who I am,” were designed to measure the extent to which they believe colleagues know who they truly are. Employees were also asked to evaluate their degree of friendship with each person in their organization by answering the question “This person is a friend; someone I socialize with outside of work” with a ranking of one to seven (one=strongly disagree and seven=strongly agree). Supervisors were asked to assess their subordinates’ job performance and rate their efforts at things such as “Helps others who have been absent,” in order to assess their organizational citizenship behaviours.

The researchers also assessed how genuinely authentic the respondents were by asking them to rate how strongly they felt about things such as, “For me, it’s better to be honest about myself when meeting new people, even if it makes me appear less than ideal”.  They also asked questions that were designed to assess the amount of mentoring happening between co-workers.

Their findings show that when the values of staff are well aligned with the company’s values and culture, and colleagues are friends with one another, job performance will be higher. This is because workers are more at ease when surrounded by colleagues who they also see as friends, as they feel that they can be their genuine selves and colleagues will accept them for who they are. Employees in this kind of working environment are more likely to go the extra mile for colleagues as well as the company, and this helps raise overall performance. The researchers suggest that companies would do well to offer social and team-building activities, and areas in the office that encourage casual interactions between employees, in order to help colleagues socialize and develop friendship ties.

The results of the study have been published by the journal Group & Organization Management in the paper titled, “Person-Organization Fit and Friendship from Coworkers: Effects on Feeling Self-Verification and Employee Outcomes”. Prof. Kim’s co-authors are Xiaowan Lin of University of Macau and Sang-Pyo Kim, Gyeongnam National University of Science and Technology.

Read the paper here

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