To work with people you know is great – with one exception…

Are you quite good friends with some or most of your colleagues? Congratulations, then there is a large chance you perform well at work, according to new research. However, there is an exception worth noting…

We have known for a long time that having many good friends is beneficial to our health and general wellbeing. But if you also happen to work with people you know well (and like), also your performance is enhanced.

This was shown in a so-called meta-analysis undertaken at Ohio State University in the US, presented last year. Science Daily reports that researchers studied 26 previous studies with around 1,000 work teams and 3,500 participants and compared how well different teams performed depending on how the groups were constructed.

The scientists looked both at studies on teams with already established friendships and also work teams where the members were only acquaintances or did not know each other very well. The ”friendship teams” came out on top when it came to task performance. Why? 

• Friends know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and can therefore divide the tasks more efficiently and thereby save time.
• Friends are more prone to supporting each other and are therefore able to better cope with any challenges or strain they may come across.
• Friends who work together increase each other’s motivation for the job, as you do not want to let someone you like down…

This became particularly obvious in the case of the slightly larger teams. The larger the teams, the more important the friendship ties, regardless of whether the task was more physically demanding or required more effort from the brain.

Or, in the words of Robert Lount, one of the co-authors of the study at Ohio State University:

” When employees are having fun together, it may have long-term benefits for productivity.”

But there is an area where being friends with the people you work with is not beneficial and that is if you are trying to find new solutions to a problem. In this case, it actually turned out that working with people you do not know very well, or not at all, may be an advantage.

The reason for this, according to the research, is that it is easier to question or challenge someone you do not know very well and you may therefore be more open to suggesting new or different solutions. With friends, however, it is very easy to just agree and therefore not getting to the bottom of the problem.

The conclusion?

If you want something done – work with those you know well.

If you want something new done – get some new people on board.

Or, as the saying goes, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”

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