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Work Teams Function Best if Members Are Friends

Work Teams Function Best if Members Are Friends

New research suggests that supervisors should not breakup friendship groups when they are creating workplace teams and that team-building exercises are effective for increasing productivity.

Upon analysis and review of 26 different studies, Ohio State researchers discovered workplace teams are better when they include your friends.

In the meta-analysis, investigators found that teams composed of friends performed better on some tasks than groups of acquaintances or strangers. Teams with friends were particularly effective when the groups were larger and when their focus was on maximizing output.

“Working with friends is not just something that makes us feel good — it can actually produce better results,” said Robert Lount, co-author of the study and associate professor of management and human resources at Ohio State.

The study was led by Seunghoo Chung, a doctoral student in management and human resources at Ohio State. The results appear online in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin and will be published in a future print edition.

The researchers analyzed studies about teams that used participants with established friendships and that included teams with non-friends or acquaintances as a comparison group. All the studies also clearly measured task performance.

In the end, the 26 studies they analyzed included 1,016 groups with 3,467 participants.

Overall, results showed friendship groups had a clear performance advantage, whether the tasks required brawn or brains. The advantage was found in all age groups.

The larger the teams studied, the bigger the positive effect of friendship groups, the study found.

“Friends can coordinate tasks more effectively,” Chung said. “They know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and can figure out how to break up the work in the most efficient way.”

Researchers discovered friendship groups did better in tasks where the goal was to produce the most output, but did not have an advantage when the goal was to find the optimal solution to a problem.

Chung believes keeping a team motivated is critical when the goal is maximizing output, and that’s where friends are helpful.

“When you’re working with friends, you tend to be in a better mood and can work through the adversity and strain that sometimes comes from having to produce a lot in a short time.”

However, when the goal is coming up with the best answer to a problem, there may be an upside to working with strangers, Lount said.

People who are not friends may be more likely to constructively disagree, to talk about the pros and cons of a proposed solution, and be less likely to just go along with the crowd.

Overall, Lount said the results suggest that managers should consider (non-mandatory) social events and team-building exercises that encourage friendships.

“When employees are having fun together, it may have long-term benefits for productivity,” he said.

“As a manager, you must balance allowing friends the opportunity to socialize, but also making sure that they don’t spend too much time at the water cooler.”

The bottom line is that managers should look for ways to build teams around groups of friends, Chung said.

“It is a good way to enhance performance,” he said.

Source: Ohio State University

Work Teams Function Best if Members Are Friends

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Work Teams Function Best if Members Are Friends. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 2, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 24 Oct 2017)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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