Family is a word that holds sacred meaning to many. Most use it in regard to their birth family, such as parents, relatives, etc. Others, however, exploit the essence and extend it to anyone they feel close to.
Whichever group you belong to, one thing is sure – millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) nowadays comprise the largest generation on the market with almost 40% of the workforce share and according to Forbes “happiness of millennials at work seems intrinsically linked to the quality of the relationships they foster there.” Premiere Global Services (PGI) compiled data and created an infographic from surveys of 220 GlobalMeet customers which found that 71% of millennials want their co-workers to be like their second family.
But even if possible, is it a good idea? Colliding the two main segments of your day-to-day life and interactions could be the key to finding that work-life harmony you always strived for or the key to its destruction.
Let us first point out when colleagues should be like a family, when they should not and what the ramifications are in either case.
Family is traditionally associated with care, attention, acceptance, help, and unconditional devotion. It is clear why employees would like to feel like they are surrounded by family at work. As humans, we seek and expect such treatment in our immediate environment.
Therefore, as an employee, one goes into work every day with the expectation that he/she would be accepted, treated well, and cared for. On the other hand, the employer hires with the assumption that the staff will be devoted to the workplace and work in its best interest at all times. To achieve such high standards, all personnel should follow some basic guidelines:
- Commit. Just like a relationship with a loved one, things will not always be great. One should commit to the bad times as well as the good ones and gather forces to overcome obstacles together.
- Communicate. Miscommunication is often the root cause of a significant position of all problems. Just like in close family relations, co-workers should also communicate about everything and listen actively to what is being said to them and answer kindly and with compassion.
- Trust. Often at work, we assume the worst of other people’s intentions. The golden rule is to treat someone as innocent until proven guilty. Has someone sent the wrong email? Or given you obsolete data? Approach that colleague with understanding and through communication and trust find the underlying cause of the issue, just like you would with a relative.
- Accept. We all have unique backgrounds and hold different beliefs – as long as peers follow the basic company principles and guidelines, let them be their own person. Just because someone has a different perspective, does not mean it is wrong. Through adversity comes growth.
- Assist. In a healthy family, the wellbeing of the entire group outweighs the individual’s impulses. The whole company works toward the same goal, so lend a helping hand when one is in need. Sometimes all a person desires is a little boost to fulfill their full potential.
Having a close relationship with your co-workers brings numerous benefits, yet it comes with its territory. While in the past, the skill set of an employee was prioritized when hiring, in recent years culture fit is becoming increasingly important. This has brought several new layers to how companies select talent.
Stemming from better collaboration and higher work satisfaction levels, companies rely on the possible friendships employees will create to boost their company’s overall performance. This belief has grown within both top management and regular staff to the extent that a mismatch within this culture realm can break not only the work family collegiality within the team but the cultural misfit’s place within the organization as well. Workers that feel comfortable in a specific environment guard it from possible intrusions that might mess with the achieved harmony.
Everyone should keep in mind that there are several critical differences between one’s birth and work family. While your relatives are “assigned” to you, work relationships are fundamentally different. Each member of this unity is in it by choice and can dictate to a large extent what the outcome of the partnership might be. This is where group dynamics and company politics could present not only benefits but also challenges. Team members may express subjective favoritism leading to inter-team tension founded on personal conflicts rather than strictly work matters.
To wrap up, while becoming increasingly closer to your peers has a positive effect on your wellbeing and the commitment towards the job, it must be taken with a grain of salt. Sometimes while being busy trying to prove the loyalty to the company, we fail to take care of ourselves as individuals. There is a place for friendships and close relationships within the office. Still, it should never be forgotten that a well-balanced scorecard approach is needed when combining strategic business decisions with personal affairs. The ultimate goal should be to strive for creating a positive and fostering environment while taking precautions regarding the possible negative consequences.
Work family may not necessarily be equal to (=) second family, but leaders need to ensure their culture allows it to get as close as possible (≈).