We spend most of our adult life with people who are not family members or friends. We spend this time with business colleagues and associates. Because of this, the line between having a working relationship with a coworker and having a personal relationship with them can be blurred.

Experts wonder if this is a generational ideal. 50 years ago, coworkers were merely acquaintances. But as letters turned to emails and phone calls turned to texts, workplaces today have an entirely different feel about them. Colleagues can instant message, teleconference and videoconference with each other, creating new opportunities for interaction. Social media sites have also made it possible for employees to bridge the gap of professional vs. personal relationships. They can be ‘friends’ on Facebook and followers on Instagram and Twitter, oftentimes giving them a glimpse into the personal lives of those they work with. And with the daily demands of corporate America increasing, many colleagues are seeking release outside of work and are enjoying each other’s company at happy hours or weekend activities.

The upside of the personal work relationships is that it fosters an environment of teamwork. Employees often perform better for someone they like. The people you hang out with normally share the same ideals of you- and if those people work for the same company you do- those ideals will make the company successful.

But there are also downsides to personal relationships in the workplace. Executives and managers need to be on the lookout for favoritism, tension, overlooking poor work, lack of credibility and breaches of confidentiality.

The size of companies can also play a factor in how employees toe the line of personal and professional relationships. Smaller and mid-size companies normally have a more open environment, where teams interact together on a daily basis. Larger corporations can be segmented by floors or even geographic locations, and some employees will not even know the names of everyone employed. But with technological advances, these larger companies can still put people in different cities face to face.

Knowing someone does not necessarily breed trust, but it does help put a face to a name, and from here, a relationship can develop and instigate trust and commonality between teams or departments. Personal relationships also help with collaboration, which is a marker for Generation Y. This generation will also be taking over for the Baby Boomers, many of which still believe in the separation of work and home life.

It is inevitable. Personal relationships will form in the workplace. And technology will only make the reach of these relationships greater.  However, the positives far outweigh the negatives. When fostered in a culture of collaboration, trust and support, these relationships will move the company forward and increase the bottom line by creating ownership, loyalty and passion for success.


About the Blog: Culture Counts is a blog devoted to the discussion of law firm culture and corporate core values. Frequent topics include positive work environment, conscious capitalism, entrepreneurial management, positive workplace culture, workplace productivity, and corporate core values

About the Firm: Klemchuk LLP is an Intellectual Property (IP), Technology, Internet, and Business law firm located in Dallas, TX. The firm offers comprehensive legal services including litigation and enforcement of all forms of IP as well as registration and licensing of patents, trademarks, trade dress, and copyrights. The firm also provides a wide range of technology, Internet, e-commerce, and business services including business planning, formation, and financing, mergers and acquisitions, business litigation, data privacy, and domain name dispute resolution. Additional information about the IP law firm and its IP attorneys may be found at www.klemchuk.com.