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When relationships at work go sour

Article by: Matthew Harradine | Published: 17 July 2017

Research explores the growing ‘work spouse’ trend (employees having one person they are particularly close to at work) analysed feedback from over 4,000 employees and 103 employers. Nearly all employers (92 percent) say strong relationships make people more engaged with their jobs, while 96 percent say they create a happier workplace. Comment from Matthew Harradine, director at totaljobs.

Work relationship ‘break ups’ are fraught with problems
But 33 percent of employers’ report that they have had to deal with employee issues after work friendships have gone bad. After work friendship sours between employees, nearly half (41 percent) of employers say work and productivity was negatively impacted. Over a third (38 percent) witnessed bullying behaviour in the workplace and the same number again say office rumours spread through the company (38 percent). Worryingly, a quarter of employers (26 percent) say employees took stress or sick leave because of a breakdown in work friendships, while one in four (26 percent) say employees even ended up resigning. 

Creating positive work relationships
The value of work friendships to the workplace has not gone unnoticed, with four in five (80 percent) employers saying strong work friendships are important. But what about those employees that don’t seem to make friends at work? Employers have different ways of handling this, with most trying to get employees to bond through work and team projects (47 percent). A further 19 percent of employers speak with employees to understand why they are isolated, while 23 percent of employers choose to leave them alone.

Matthew Harradine, director at totaljobs, said: The overwhelming majority of employers are telling us that happy employees are more engaged and productive. The question then is how do employers create a happy environment for staff and cultivate the best conditions for productivity to thrive? Good working relationships are certainly an important part of this, and be it through ‘away days’, communal areas, or other means, there are certainly many options open to employers.” If friendships do blossom in the workplace, most employers (70 percent) say its positive for the broader team to see others getting along. However, one in five (20 percent) do point out that ‘work spouses’ can isolate other members of the team who don’t feel included.