Background to the Study
Informal relationships among employees within organizations in recent times have become a potential source of influence for job performance and organization success as a consequence of managerial effectiveness. Friendships evolve from existing formal line of operations in the workplace environment and this is maintained for the advantage of the organization. Friendships according to Song (2006) are one of the essential human values and these friendships influence individual attitudes and behaviours. These behaviours could be positive or negative; hence Ellingwood (2001) asserts that positive interpersonal relationships at work have an advantageous impact on both organization and the employees. In the same vein, employees’ negative work attitudes can be mitigated when friends act as close confidants on bad and unpleasant work experiences (Anderson and Martin, 1995; Song and Olshfski, 2008; and Morrison, 2009)
The importance of workplace friendship to organizational outcomes engendered scholars paying attentions to its study. In the early nineteen – thirties, Mayo (1933) in Morrison (2004) brought the topic of workplace relationships to wide attention when he wrote the first management book focusing on the social needs of employees. Mayo advocated the role of socio-emotional factors in determining employees’ behaviour, contending that the extent to which employees received social satisfaction in the workplace was the most powerful influence on productivity. This influence can be seen in the provision of valuable individual and organizational outcomes.
Subsequently, Maslow (1970) developed the classic theory of human motivation, which first described the “hierarchy of needs” and contended that as lower level needs (such as physiological and safety needs) are satisfied, higher level needs (such as social, esteem and self-actualization needs) emerged as motivators. On this note, Steers (1977) declares that human needs have been shown to influence performance in certain jobs. For example, the opportunities to satisfy needs are still studied in organizational contexts, and are brought to be related to organizational commitment, job satisfaction and tendency to leave/turnover intention (Zinovieva, ten Horn, and Roe, 1993) and competence (Medcof and Hausdorf, 1995). Although the simple hierarchy that Maslow envisioned does not adequately reflect the complexity of human motivation, the philosophy still has been used (Bedeian and Wren, 2001).
The context of satisfying ones needs can greatly be influenced by the level of relationships one creates in the work environment. Crabtree (2004) posits that valued work relationships can influence organizational outcomes by increasing productivity, institutional participation and turnover reduction.
Morrison (2005) argues that peer relationships are antecedents of job satisfaction, while Markiewiez, Devine, and Kausilas (2000) found that the quality of friendships was associated with career success and job satisfaction of employees and Gibbons and Olk (2003) further stressed the positive relationships at the workplace through organizational commitment and reduced turnover. The recognition and application of friendship ties in the workplace as a performance strategy has greatly impacted the several organizations in the developed economies as evidenced in many studies earlier mentioned.
Even though workplace friendship has positive impacts on organization outcomes, many organizations mostly, in the developing economies as Nigeria over-looked these positive sides, but focused on the negative effects. Zaleznik (1997) and Song (2006) argued that some of these negative effects include sexual harassment, favouritism, gossip, and wrong impression of the implications of informal relationships in a formal working environment.
On this note, Gordon and Hartman (2009) declare that since people spend so much time together at work, (i.e. approximately forty (40) hours per week), the effect of workers being dissatisfied could be leveraged by employers encouraging interpersonal relationship at workplaces. Supporting this notion, Dachner (2011) declares that encouraging interpersonal relations among workers is important because valued work relationships can influence organizational outcomes by increasing institutional participation, establishing supportive and innovative climates, increasing organizational productivity, indirectly reducing absenteeism and the intent to turnover.