Leadership

Bestie or Beastly Situation? Managing the Workplace BFF

Have you noticed? Some of your employees are pairing off, not necessarily in a romantic way, but as workplace besties. With work taking a huge chunk of peoples’ lives, many employees—especially Millennials—are making colleagues their office BFFs.

As a manager, there are pros and cons to the new buddy system. Your job is to help keep these relationships positive, always watching out for the perils of workmates who’ve paired off into platonic power couples.

On the positive side, a best friend at work offers employees social confidence and a feeling of belonging.  For many, it’s like having a cheering section, especially when taking on challenging projects.

Having a friend in the office is also helpful when the chips are down. A good friend is invaluable for venting frustrations. Once the anger is released, employees can get back in the game quicker and set an example for others.

Also, friendships facilitate good communication. With social media, texts, e-mails and voicemails swirling about all day, it’s easy for communications to go a bit haywire. However, there is less chance for misunderstandings when good friends can simply talk out an issue. Friends understand the subtext of a communication and “get” the meaning of most messages.

People are more creative, too, when they are among friends. They are relaxed and less concerned about how they are being perceived every time they have an interesting or slightly different idea. Friends are great for problem solving and bouncing concepts back and forth. Think of all the great creative duos throughout history—Lennon and McCartney, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, and Hewlett and Packard. Who knows? You might have a pair like this in your midst!

Young people especially gain from having these types of relationships. Many are just starting their careers and haven’t yet formed circles of friends outside of work. Having someone to share personal information can ease feelings of isolation and the discomfort of being without the connections of parents or college buddies.

Regardless of the generation, employees with an office bestie are also more engaged in their work. In fact, Gallup organization includes the question, “I have a best friend at work” in its measurement of employee engagement.

With so many benefits, are there really any downsides to the situation?

Any parent of a preteen knows that best friends squabble, and there’s no guarantee that workplace colleagues won’t revert to their junior highways. As a manager, you could find yourself in the middle of a friend-spat. The best thing to do is to remind your pairing that they’ve still got to get the work done, whether or not there’s a “forever” to their friendship.

There’s also the issue of workplace pals having a bit too much fun. Make sure your employees have time for chatter but not when work obligations and essential projects need to be completed. Even if you don’t like being the disciplinarian, gentle reminders are important. Better yet, organize after-work events where people have plenty of time for togetherness. Just make sure that the party starts after hours.

With relationships so strong, your team may be exceptionally vulnerable when one member of a dynamic duo leaves the company. Employees who are left behind may find themselves grieving and miserable. Although playing matchmaker and trying to find a new pairing can be risky, do your best to help each one through the situation, and avoid a double loss for the organization.

The bottom line is that workplace friends are important, but you must remind your staff to keep things professional. And speaking of relationships and professionalism, tomorrow we’ll tackle another common pairing these days—the workplace spouse. You may find this phenomenon even more challenging than the office bestie.