Almost every employer will agree that relations between staff need to be good in order for a business to flourish.

Colleagues who get along well thrive in the office because they’re surrounded by people they enjoy working with, making it easier for employers to retain their staff. Those who often disagree with other employees and can’t get along struggle to be as productive as they might be in a more positive working environment. Disputes that arise from this can also end up being disruptive for everyone around them.

However, just because good relations are a vital part of today’s successful workplace, it doesn’t mean that they don’t come with any setbacks.

People fall out sometimes – it happens – but when two colleagues who were friends no longer get along, it can cause problems. A new research study found that 33% of employers have had to deal with issues at work after employees had fallen out, with half of them saying that they’ve seen productivity suffer as a result of it. A similar number of employers also noted that incidents of bullying and the spreading of rumours occurred in the wake of these ‘break-ups’, leading to a negative vibe in the office.

The problem can become as severe as people not even turning up to work. A quarter of employers questioned said they’ve had members of their staff take stress or sick leave simply because of the collapse of a work friendship, and that they’ve even had cases of employees resigning.

These findings are concerning, particularly when friendships in the office are something that should be promoted and not avoided. Knowing that the breakdown of a relationship is going to happen isn’t easy to predict most of the time, however employers have to be prepared to respond fairly quickly if something like this does occur. It’s their business that will suffer if productivity takes a hit.

Disciplinary action has to be taken if bullying is evidenced among staff, while people also need to be called up if the quality of their work has declined as a result of tension between colleagues.

It can sometimes be hard to deal with the root of the problem as employers shouldn’t be seen to be interfering in their employee’s personal affairs. Team building exercises are useful for trying to restore unity and civility in the office without necessarily having an agenda. They can also help to combat one of the other problems that may arise from close friendships in the workplace.

Not everyone is great at making friends at work, and one in five employers have pointed out that seeing their colleagues having close relationships with one another can isolate other members of the team. 19% of employers try to speak with these employees to help them and understand why they’re isolated, while another 23% just leave them be, but it’s often through team building and collaborative work that these people bond the most with their colleagues.

The office should be somewhere that everyone enjoys going to on a daily basis, and ensuring that their staff feel that way should always be an employer’s main concern. The work will only be at its best if the people doing it feel happy in their job, which is why strong office relationships are so important. Employers just need to be vigilant for when a friendship turns sour, because if that problem isn’t dealt with quickly, the harm it can cause can be irreparable.

James Darvill

James is a passionate scriptwriter and reluctant poet with a talent for the dystopian. When he’s not staying up late watching the Simpsons he’s beating the world at Mario Kart, always with a glass of wine in hand.
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