Some companies — among them Google, DaVita, Dropbox and Southwest — have built reputations for fostering comradeship at work. Creating comradeship at work hinges on the leaders of organizations. That is, companies can and should create and value camaraderie as a competitive advantage for recruiting top employees, retaining employees, and improving engagement, creativity and productivity.
I recently spoke with Gary Kelly, CEO of Southwest, who outlined some key points on how a leader can help foster a culture of camaraderie. First, Kelly notes that is it important for the leaders of the organization to have a vision for the culture. His advice is to “be clear in your mind on what you want the culture to be within your organization.” At Southwest, they want a culture where employees feel they are part of a family. Kelly suggests leaders must “model the culture: spending time with employees, treating people with respect, having fun, being there for them personally and professionally, and putting people first — with empathy, kindness and compassion.” Finally, Kelly notes it is very important for organizations to have products and services around which employees can feel proud and that organizations need to leverage the talents of the employees by letting ideas come forward.
People in organizations need to work together. So, managers and employees need to foster collaboration, trust, personal relationships, fun and support. In an increasingly global and virtual environment, challenges for employees and managers will be to cultivate these personal relationships. Fostering friendships takes proactive effort.
Are there downsides to friendships at work? Sure, there can be bumps: professional jealousy, groupthink, negative cliques, split loyalties, loss of work time to socializing and broken friendships. However, these are all manageable and the benefits of positive relationships far outweigh any negative outcomes.
Christine M. Riordan is the provost and professor of management at the University of Kentucky. Her research focuses on labor-force diversity issues, leadership effectiveness, and career success.