The Friendly Factor That Improves Employee Performance

A more diverse social circle is correlated with better networking skills and greater effectiveness at work

Written by Sissi Wang
Illustration: Kagan McLeod

Do you know what your employees’ friend circlesare like? Anew study published inOrganization Science found that employees with more racially diverse friend networks were more likely to go beyond their roles to help the company.

In one study involving 222 employees and supervisors of a company, the employees were asked to list five people in their personal network of friends and identify their race, thendo the same for 10 people in the company they considered friends. Findings show that workers who hang with a varied group of friends in their off-hours tend tobuild larger and similarly diverse networks on the job.Supervisors also rated these employeeshigher on questions like “This person has done more work than required.”

Steffanie Wilk, co-author of the study and associate professor of management and human resources at The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business, said the reason was that these employees who cultivated morediverse friend networks on the job simplyhad more people to help.”Your friends outside of work actually have this connection to how you behave in the workplace, through the shaping of your relationships on the job,” sheexplained. “They’re more likely to see their ingroup—the people they most identify with—as a broader group of people which includes those of different racial backgrounds. And we tend to help people in our ingroups.”

A secondary finding from thisstudy discoveredemployees who had racially-diverse friend groupswere more trusting of supervisors who also had a diversesocialnetwork. Wilk said sharing similar values and beliefs when it comes to the kinds of friends people choosecan build trust between people more than just sharing the same race.

Finally, for companies looking to build a more diverse workplace (as studies have shown that diverse work groups tend to outperformhomogenous groups), Wilk stressed that companies should let friendships develop naturally when they provide collaboration opportunities forpeople of different races, as enforced heterogeneousteams show more interpersonal conflicts. The most constructive relationships are built on friendship,shared Wilk.


Do you encourage workplace friendships? Why, or why not? Share your thoughts using the comments section below.

Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com