We all want our staff to connect on a deeper level than a nod in the hallway or salutations in an email. A strong culture is built off of strong relationships, and this can only develop organically. That's why it's one of the hardest to accomplish, and why many are scratching their heads as to how to do it. goals for leaders
So when you hear staff referring to one another as "work wives" or "office besties," it can put a little spring in your step. These platonic relationships can be a huge culture help. The more good friends they have, the more they'll enjoy coming to work every day. This will lead to higher retention, positive morale, and better productivity. Right?
Not exactly. A colleague who is also a confidante doesn't always mean it's great for your culture. In fact, it could be working against your culture.
I've led and worked inside teams where there's a clear pairing off throughout the group. It created silos of information and stalled communication. Inside jokes and whispers made me feel like an outsider rather than part of a group working towards a common goal. When it's always two against one, my ideas often felt like they fell on deaf ears.
There's nothing wrong with having close friends at work, until it starts to create tension with everyone else. Consider these five reasons why work spouses are harming your team:
1. They're holding each other back.
Just like a best friend can motivate you to achieve personal goals, a toxic friendship can block you from moving forward. For your employees, this means they're holding themselves back from an opportunity out of guilt, fear and criticism from their close colleague.
When a promotion is on the table, will they decline the offer because they don't want to be their bestie's superior? Despite being qualified for the job, personal relationships could stand as a barrier.
2. They're loyal to a fault.
Loyalty is a quality that l look for in employees. Hiring is a long and arduous process that takes up valuable time. So when I spot someone that's eager to be apart of my companies and plans to go the distance, I don't want to let them go.
Unfortunately, loyalty isn't always an asset, especially if it begins to work against you. When an employee is upset after receiving critical feedback, their work spouse will likely rally behind them, whether they agree with you or not.
Soon leaders are receiving the cold shoulder and other forms of passive aggressive behavior. The "all for one, one for all" can start to disrupt your team and everyone's productivity.
3. They're isolated from the rest of the team.
They grab coffee together, eat lunch together, share meeting notes and pair up on projects. It's like middle school all over again, only this time they're receiving a paycheck -- one that you sign for.
It may not seem like a big deal, but when productivity is built on shared communication and responsibilities, pairing up based on friendships rather than skill sets will disrupt the potential for great work and innovation.
4. They could cause a divide.
Loyalty and best friends go hand-in-hand. So imagine what could happen if one best friend gets into a disagreement with a colleague. Two people in an argument jumps to four, with rallying friends ready to step in.
All relationships have ups and downs. So what if there's a work divorce? Staff could start taking sides, gossip ensues and work is compromised. Before you know it, your culture has gone from harmonious to The Hunger Games.
5. They could affect retention.
When I was in school, my best friend and I did everything together. We played at recess, sat together at lunch, and always picked each other in gym class. Then she moved away to another city, and I had to navigate each day by myself.
When you have two people who are so close suddenly break apart, the one who stayed behind will likely start thinking of jumping ship. In fact, your now ex-employee may be trying to recruit them over to his or hew new employer (who is probably your competitor).
You need to build a culture of inclusivity.
There's no doubt that a best friend can bring so much joy into our lives. As we spend most of our waking hours at the office, making strong bonds and allies is an amazing work perk. However, you have to be conscious of what these close colleagues could mean for productivity and culture.
This doesn't mean that you should fear people becoming close friends. There's no need to assign desks on opposite sides of the building.
The next time you have a project up for grabs, randomly draw names from your team instead of allowing them to pick. Throw a potluck, plan a sports day, or introduce happy hour once a month. You could also match departments together who typically don't communicate daily, like IT with sales, or human resources with research and development.
Rather than cause resentment, start introducing events that naturally socialize the team from the get-go. Make conscious decisions to start integrating all staff into one another's lives.