Censuswide and LinkedIn recently partnered up to explore how friendships at work impact employees’ experiences and perspectives of their workplaces. Their study, titled “Relationships @Work,” surveyed more than 11,500 full-time professionals between the ages of 18-65 in 14 countries, including the U.S, Sweden, India, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Spain, the Netherlands, Malaysia, Italy, Indonesia, Brazil and the U.K. What did they find? A large percentage of professionals surveyed (46%) admit that work friendships play a role in their overall happiness, and it’s clear from the research that the amount of value placed on workplace friendships, and the level of confidence (or how personal they were) varies significantly depending on the generation. For example, while 46% of respondents stated that work friendships play a role in their overall happiness, this data point increased for millennial respondents, age 18-24, up to 57%. Respondents in this age group also felt that work friendships were motivating (50%) and made them more productive (39%). The research also found Millennials to be much more likely to share personal details with friends at work. 67% of Millennial respondents stated that they share details of their lives such as salary, relationships and family issues with work buddies. This is a major shift from the days where mentioning salaries or details of one’s personal life was taboo. Millennials’ potential “over sharing” doesn’t seem to be rubbing off on colleagues, however; only 3% of baby boomers admit being likely to share details of their personal lives with work friends. Millennials’ casual approach to communication with work friends is also reflected in their relationships with managers. LinkedIn and Censuswide’s research found that one in three, or 28%, of millennials have texted a manager out of work hours for a non-work related issue. This is compared to only 10% of baby boomers.
Why are Millennials gushing to buddies at work? It may not be so much a facet of their generation’s personality, but a genuine attempt to grow and further their career. One third of Millennials versus 5% of baby boomers stated that they think socializing with colleagues helps them move up the career ladder. Note too, that 18% of respondents (all generations) say that friendships with colleagues make them more competitive in their careers, so while close friendships at work may be a greater trend for Millennials, it is not exclusively a trend of that generation. Additionally, 51% of respondents (all generations) say that they stay in touch with former colleagues, and while we can’t say where exactly the value of this comes from (friendship, mentor, resource, networking, etc.), we can certainly say it indicates respondents have a loyalty to past colleagues and work friendships. It seems that globally, too, workplace friendships have a high level of importance. In India, for example, 1 in 3 professionals say their closest work colleagues understand them better than their partners.
Overall, this data is a good reminder that everyone communicates differently, whether on an individual basis or by the larger personality of an age demographic. Specifically, though, when it comes to retaining Millennial employees, this desire for work friendships and casual communication could be an overlooked point of value for employees. As workplaces become increasing more generationally diverse, it becomes important (even vital) to recognize the different, and evolving, communication styles of employees.