Buddy Business at Work

Read the employee handbook at just about any company on the planet and you'll likely see the firm's workforce described as a "family." A lovely thought, to be sure, but one that may not ring true in this era of mass layoffs-- er, "downsizing" --and insecurity.

So maybe it's time for a new organizational metaphor. How about this: Think of the workplace as a social gathering. A cocktail party or a summer picnic.

Yes, we're exaggerating--but only a little. According to Christine Riordan, Ph. D., workers report higher job satisfaction when they feel the opportunity for friendships exists at work. It doesn't matter whether they actually have a friend on the job--they just need to know that the possibility exists.

"Friendship in the workplace may be severely underrated as a way to increase organizational effectiveness," contends Riordan, professor of management at the University of Georgia. Studying employees at a utility firms, Riordan found that everyone from clerks to managers was happier when the office was buddy-rich.

And friendship opportunities drum up more than just satisfaction, report Riordan and Rodger Griffeth, Ph.D., in the Journal of Business and Psychology. It also increases employees sense of involvement with their jobs--thus boosting their commitment to the firm. so perhaps mangers shouldn't fret when they spy workers sharing a moment of idle chitchat over the copier.

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