Close workplace friendships have their benefits and their risks.
In an interview on ABC Radio National, Lisa Leong and I chatted about the value of having a best friend at work.
Workplace friendships can be great for our mental health and keeping our spirits up. We spend a lot of time at work so it’s important to be able to feel relaxed with your colleagues and have a laugh or vent sometimes.
Camaraderie and respect at work is important, particularly when co-workers are looking out for each other and sharing ideas. This can promote cohesive teamwork and provide workers with an overall sense of wellbeing and support.
However, there are potential risks to having a best friend at work:
Perceived favouritism / perceived bias / conflict of interest
Leniency of rules and policies in favour of putting the friendship first
Distractions and time-wasting
Exclusion of other team members (conscious or subconscious)
A “bestie” friendship between a supervisor and subordinate would make it particularly difficult to avoid the perception of preferential treatment. If co-workers believe that a promotion or reward has been given on the basis of favouritism, this has a damaging impact on workplace culture and may also lead to discrimination claims.
To avoid other team members feeling excluded, I would advise people to have courageous conversations with their co-workers. Open and transparent communication is an excellent way to strengthen team relations and create an inclusive team culture.
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