In every job, there needs to be some element of likeability among its team members. It doesn't have to be an all-out love fest, but like any team, there has to be cohesiveness for it to be productive. If there is a good bond toward a common goal, friendship at least to a minor degree forms within the team.
The real question becomes, do you belong at work?
I have worked in a place where I had friends within my working team. Each one of us got along quite well and spent time together outside of working hours. While I always enjoyed coming to work every day to catch up with my friends, I had always felt like I wasn't productive enough. I never had a real feeling of belonging to the work that I did. This nagging feeling eventually led to me leaving for another job.
Alternatively, I have worked in a place where I belonged. I was very good at what I did, I aced the work I did every day, but there was no sense of friendship with my co-workers. While I didn't outright dislike those who surrounded me every day, I didn't go out of my way to befriend them outside of working hours. I did very well at this job, but because I didn't feel a connection with my team, I ended up leaving to find more meaning in the work that I did.
You cannot have a productive work environment without friendship and belonging.
Those who had a best friend at work were 43% more likely to report having received recognition and praise for their work in the last week
Today's workplace is very fractured. More people are working from home, and more teams are spread out across many different offices. It is the reality of the global economy in which we live. For businesses to be more scalable, reachable and diverse, they must spread out to as many people as possible. If this strategy is to result in productive and fulfilled employees, more emphasis must be placed on friendship and belonging amongst each member of the team.
Leadership must spend more time encouraging friendship among their staff. This encouragement could come from more social gatherings either during lunch hours or after hours celebrating personal achievements of teammates. The primary focus on encouraging friendship is to emphasize outside interests of teammates. The more people know about each other, the more chances there are to bond. Leadership has to play a prominent role in breaking the proverbial ice among each teammate.
When it comes to belonging, team leaders must encourage each team member to find their best strengths and allow them to use those skills in contributing to the team. This encouragement can be messy as the journey to finding strength often produces failure. By enabling teammates to fail in a comfortable environment, allows them to grow professionally and personally. Only when an employee works to their strengths and their passion can a sense of belonging happen. When an employee is aligned correctly with their passion, they feel like they are appropriately contributing to the team and as a result, feel as though they belong.
Belonging is the crucial piece of the puzzle, leading to psychological safety and employee engagement
Everyone wants to feel like they belong to a team, but they can only do this if their skills and passion are aligned. People change, and leaders within an organization must realize this and organically allow their staff to grow by creating a safe work environment in which to do so. Friendship is also a pivotal piece to this puzzle, as encouraging like-minded people to bond will expedite the growth of everyone involved. A team cannot productively grow unless every member within it is growing at or near the same pace.
Belonging and friendship are two critical pieces to creating a team that is cohesive, happy and ultimately productive. Inspiration and creativity thrive in an environment where people feel safe and accepted. How much more safe can a person feel when they belong to a team filled with friends?