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Yes, saying “having friends is important” is akin to needing a coat when it’s cold out, but a surprising number of managers often overlook why a connected team matters.

In Stanley Schachter’s now infamous social experiment, study participants who received an electric shock were more apt to seek out other participants in the waiting room who had also been shocked, than those who had not. The conclusion? Misery loves other (miserable) company.

In an article for the Research Digest, a publication of the British Psychological Research Society, writer Alex Fradera notes that this theory also applies to company culture. Employees who bond together over poor treatment from a superior are more likely to bond than those who haven’t experienced mistreatment, as stated in research by Adam Stovernik of Northern Illinois University.

Like Schachter’s research before him, Stovernik’s research also tested the boundaries between misery and bonding. In Stovernik’s experiment, students were told they would be solving puzzles with teammates for a cash prize. The students waited for an instructor who eventually showed up late, offering a genuine apology to half the students, while shrugging off the rest. Stovernik polled the groups after and found that teams who had not received genuine apologies felt closer to their teammates than those who had.

Those in leadership positions can cultivate camaraderie amongst employees in unknown ways, too. In follow-up research, Stovernik discovered that employees who bonded over mistreatment by a superior were also more likely to waste potential work time ruminating on their mistreatment, rather than the project at hand.

Why Camaraderie Matters

Noting research from Gallup, the Harvard Business Review writes,

“Employees report that when they have friends at work, their job is more fun, enjoyable, worthwhile, and satisfying. Gallup found that close work friendships boost employee satisfaction by 50% and people with a best friend at work are seven times more likely to engage fully in their work.”

Companies can foster camaraderie in different ways, both on macro and micro levels. Company-wide events that encourage relaxation and bonding, like a BBQ or group lunch, is a great way to build camaraderie on a large scale. On the micro level, allowing employees to develop productive friendships that create a sense of belonging and well-being will lead to more engaged employees.

From our own experiences as hiring experts, we’ve seen that higher company retention occurs when employee engagement is regarding employees’ emotional commitment to a company and their willingness to “go the extra mile” to drive towards organizational goals. Friendships aid engagement and can affect employees’ energy and effort they put into their work, sense of pride and enthusiasm, and level of saturation in their work.

Fostering Friendships

The benefits of camaraderie and friendship extend beyond employees being productive and engaged workers. According to research sources collected by WebMD, friendship can help us sleep better, lowers our risk of heart disease, lower stress-induced blood pressure, and help us recover from illness faster. Employees who feel a sense of camaraderie are not just happier, but healthier, too.

Employees don’t have to bond over mistreatment from a superior, and frankly, we wouldn’t suggest cultivating camaraderie that route.

At Personify, we foster friendships and team morale by taking initiatives like giving back to our community. Our Community Outreach Committee is responsible for organizing volunteer opportunities for employees, as well as supporting ongoing activities and partnerships with nonprofits in the Triangle. We’ve also gone the extra mile for another, literally, by running in the City of Oaks Marathon 5k and 10k races together.

Cultivate camaraderie at your organization in big and small ways. Your employees will stay engaged and go home with a smile on their faces.

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