What do your friends reveal about your work?


The company you keep outside of work influences your actions on the job.

Dr. Erin Makarius

Dr. Erin Makarius

If your friends represent races different than your own, you’re likely to develop supportive working relationships with co-workers of diverse ethnic backgrounds. Also, your boss is more likely to give you high ratings of interpersonal performance.

Findings of a study by Dr. Erin Makarius, assistant professor of management at The University of Akron, and Dr. Steffanie Wilk, associate professor of management and human resources at The Ohio State University, showed employees gravitate toward co-workers of different ethnicities if they have a diverse network of friends outside of work.

“Relationship patterns spill over from our personal to our professional lives and can lead to positive interpersonal outcomes,” Makarius says, pointing to the results of a survey of 222 financial institution employees in the Midwest.

Creating a positive work environment

Published in Organization Science, the study reveals people with friends of different races were found to be more supportive of their colleagues and were more likely to take on responsibilities beyond their roles.

diverse workers

“When both employees and supervisors choose to have relationships with diverse groups of friends and colleagues, employees also are more likely to trust their supervisors,” Makarius says.

But don’t try to force a good thing, Makarius warns employers.

“Just being with diverse others isn’t enough,” she says. “People have to voluntarily develop these relationships.”

The takeaway for companies: Create meaningful opportunities for interactions between your employees.

“Provide everyday informal and formal opportunities for your employees to cultivate friendships with those who are different from one another and on voluntary terms,” Makarius says. “Relationships across differences that are a function of choice rather than assignment are more likely to result in trust and support behaviors that facilitate interpersonal performance at work.”

 Story by Denise Henry

Media contact: Dan Minnich, 330-972-6476 or dminnich@uakron.edu.