Friends make us happy, of course, but is friendship at work good for productivity?
Employees who have a racially diverse group of friends in their personal lives perform better at certain aspects of their jobs, according to a study recently published in the journal Organization Science. The study's authors discovered that this is because these employees also tend to have more racially diverse friends at work, which is linked to workers going above and beyond their job responsibilities and, under some circumstances, having more trust in their boss.
"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," Steffanie Wilk, a co-author of the study, said in a statement.
Employees with diverse friends tend to build similar friendships in the office, according to Wilk, an associate professor of management and human resources at The Ohio State University's Fisher College of Business. She said these workers more likely identify with, and in turn help, a broader group of co-workers, including those of different racial backgrounds.
Here are five tips to better align what you value about diversity at work with your personal life and help new friendships grow naturally.
1. Introduce proximity
You may imagine that you seek out friends because of what you have in common, but often proximity plays the largest role in the company we keep. If you are living in a bubble that limits the amount of racial diversity you encounter outside of work, this will significantly limit your ability to meet and bond with a more diverse group of people.
Volunteering and community engagement provide a great opportunity to meet new people with varied backgrounds, but so do work-related activities if you truly invest in turning a diverse professional relationship into a personal one.
2. Use time wisely
Try multitasking by deepening new relationships while doing something you may have been doing anyway. Ideas include working out together, spending time in nature, cleaning out your cars in tandem or grocery shopping at the same time. You could also sign your child up to the same activity and meet there, go to a dog park together, shop for clothes or family gifts, learn a new skill or enjoy a shared hobby.
3. Text is your friend
Technology can certainly lead us to shallow relationships if not managed properly, but it can also serve as a way to deepen a new friendship in between time spent physically together.
Check on each other a few times during the month and be sure to provide a level of detail that helps your new friend keep track of your life. If you are honest in your texts about your daily hopes and even struggles, you will bond much faster and show up for in-person conversations with greater understanding of what makes them tick.
4. Don’t forget the phone
Scheduling phone dates with new people can be an effective way to continue the bonding process. Thirty minutes to an hour is the optimal timeframe to have room to go off on tangents and tell funny, though meaningless, details.
Laughter brings into focus our commonalities. Spend time growing comfortable with a new voice, but also their sense of humor.
5. Get social
Social media can help you show support and keep track of the public events shared by a new friend. Resist the urge to think you can deepen the relationship through social media alone. Make time to get to know each other well beyond the limited view social media can provide. The cumulative work to grow your friendship will be worth the effort.
The workplace, although often competitive, is a great place to build life-long friendships. It’s often a place where true character is revealed. And, although you can’t control the intentions or actions of others, you do have control of your own. Be the friend you want to have. Eventually you’ll end up with a network of people who have your back in almost any situation.