Friend or Foe?: Interpersonal Relationships at Work

I think just about everyone would agree that life is better in the company of friends (or lovers), but is a company better in the presence of these relationships? It is a debate that is hard to tackle. However, we have wrestled through the positive and negative aspects of interpersonal relationships in the work place and then applied our understanding of social psychological principles to objectively come to an understanding greater than a snap judgment or an emotional appeal.

As this ABC report points out, an individual who has a best friend at work is seven times more likely to be engaged at work and eighty-eight percent more likely to be satisfied with their lives! That’s huge. One’s personal life and work life and not mutually exclusive. In fact, they very much depend on one another. That is, if there is an area of concern in someone’s personal life it is more than likely it will carry over to his or her professional life and vice versa. Therefore, an eighty-eight percent satisfaction rating when individuals have a buddy at work is highly influential on any company.

People who have a close friendship at work are fifty percent more satisfied with their job than those that don’t.  It is easy to see Cialdini’s theory of liking here. We tend to like our best friends and therefore are more likely to help them in any way. In the work place, this is effective for work performance and creates a system of support throughout the corporation. The more you care about one another, the more you care about the quality of work. This care, when appropriately applied to the work environment builds a group-dynamic and capitalizes on the idea of unity and cohesiveness. This inclusive culture emphasizes a sense of belonging and team dynamic. When individuals see themselves as part of a group, they are more likely to associate positive feelings with the company. This applied concept of in-group bias demonstrates the benefits or being part of such a collective culture. Furthermore, a form of harmony is reached when individuals are able to line their own goals with the goals of the group. For these reasons, it is important to have a collaborative work environment that values relationships among employees.

However, to be fair, there are downsides to interpersonal relationships. Take a look at this equation for example: two best friends + one promotion = resentment. It is natural to be disappointed after not receiving a promotion, but trying to sound convincing when congratulating your best friend gets tricky. It is also difficult to handle when a friendship ends and the work relationship doesn’t. If two friends/co-workers are fighting this is detrimental to workplace morale. See below example:

On the flip-side, friends also have a tendency to “have each other’s back” which doesn’t always bode well for the employer (friendship camouflage). We suggest enforcing ratings and employee reviews as a solution to this type of behavior. It forces the employee to remain individually accountable. Also, supervisors need to be very careful if they act as a superior to their friend. Employee favoritism and bias is an easy trap to fall victim to. Training sessions for upper and lower level employees must be in place to alleviate this potential.

Lastly, the things you share with your friends are not necessarily the same things you would share with your co-workers. It is difficult to maintain a professional image when sharing stories of your bedroom rendezvous. Her “friend” and coworker, Linda Tripp, taught Monica Lewinsky this lesson. Although this is an extreme example, gossip in the workplace is a common occurrence. It is important for the company to enforce communication skill workshops as well as correctly identify the root causes of gossip so the workplace is affected minimally.

In the end, the benefits of interpersonal relationships outweigh the downsides. It is true that socialization does not equal productivity, but self-esteem promotes productivity, as does a support system as mentioned previously. I support interpersonal relationships, but that doesn’t mean this conversation is over. A local psychologist, Ken Siegel remarked, “True friendships can’t exist when there are issues such as money and status at play.” What do you think? Are these friendships authentic? Also, the article highlighted that managers and employees aren’t as aligned when it comes to just how beneficial it is to have buddies on the job: 22% of employees said befriending co-workers has a “very positive” impact on productivity, while only 2% of managers felt as strongly”. Why do you think there is such a discrepancy between employers and employees?


Effective Leadership

It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership. -Nelson Mandela

What makes a leader effective? Derek Sivers would argue that “the first follower is what transforms a lone nut into a leader.” Regardless of how an individual attracts his/her followers, the point is, when they are in fact successful, there are characteristic trends within personality that most leaders share. “Every leader has a particular style of leadership that is innate. However, the behaviors, attitudes or methods of delivery that are effective for one staff member may in fact be counterproductive for another” (CNN).
Here are what I deem the most important leadership traits mentioned by the CNN article that comprises a good leader:
1. Honesty: builds trust
2. Focus: mission statement and direct understanding of expectations as well as a clear path to get there.
3. Passion: find it.
4. Respect: treat each other with dignity and equality. There is no room for favoritism.
5. Excellent persuasion abilities: find your “why”. (See previous post by me)
6. Be Empowering: make your followers feel valued.
Whether it was Ghandi, Steve Jobs, J.F.K, Dr. Greene, or the manager at your favorite local coffee shop, in order to be an effective leader, these characteristics are essential. I would argue that charm, charisma, and intellect also play obvious roles. However, as theories of organizational behavior would reinforce, inspirational leadership styles, or walking the walk is a transformative method of management.
“Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be..” The same is true in management; wherever your treasure or priorities lie, there too the desires of your business (or heart) will lie. If money motivates you, than that is where your heart is. If it’s within the people you guide, than that is where your heart is. Whatever it may be, your means to the end may vary, but the most common formulas have been prove to lie within the characteristics above. Where are you lacking?

The Man Who Taught Us All How to Think Different

I was in church one Sunday when my pastor asked the congregation how many of us want to go to heaven when we die. Naturally, everyone raised their hand. He then asked, how many want to go right now? No one raised their hand.We have things to do. We have people to see and places to go, but not even the greatest among us can escape death. Steve Jobs, innovator, genius, revolutionary and entrepreneur died at age 56.

I google-imaged apple and there are more pixels related to Apple Inc. then to an actual apple. How did this happen? The answer, Steve Jobs.

We all know about his products, we all probably own one, but that is not the emphasis of this post. Instead, I want to focus on the man, not the mogul. Undoubtedly, Jobs changed the world as we know it. Our children will not only think differently because of Jobs, they will live differently, but how much do really know about the man behind the curtain?


Steve Jobs Jobs was born in San Francisco to Abdulfattah “John” Jandali, a Syrian, and Joanne Schieble, an American of Swiss and German decent. Both parents were graduate school students. Jobs’ grandfather did not approve of his parents getting married so his parents decided to put him up for adoption. Steve’s biological mother later became a speech pathologist while his father taught political science at various universities. Ironically however, four months after Jobs’ grandfather died (and only ten months after they decided to give up custody of Steve), his parents married and had a daughter, Jobs’ biological sister Mona Simpson.  The marriage ended in divorce. Later in life, Jobs connected with Mona and had a distant relationship with his biological mother. Although Jandali’s attempts, late in his life, to contact Jobs were unsuccessful; Interviewed in August 2011 when Jobs resigned as CEO of Apple, Jandali said, “I just wish I hadn’t been the selfish man I must have been, to allow both my children to turn their backs on me and pray it is not too late to tell Steve how I feel.” (The Sun)

Jobs was adopted by  Paul Jobs and Clara Jobs. Paul and Clara also later adopted a daughter, Patti. Paul Jobs, a machinist for a company that made lasers, taught his son rudimentary electronics and how to work with his hands. It was in Paul and Clara’s garage where Jobs’ and co-founder Steve Wozniak (shown above) began work on the first Apple computer. (Side note: the last name Wozniak is automatically saved in Mac spell check-just learned that).

Time past and Steve married Laurene Powell on March 18, 1991. The couple had a son and two daughters. However, Jobs also had a daughter, Lisa Brennan-Jobs (born 1978), from his relationship with Bay Area painter Chrisann Brennan prior to meeting his wife. For two years, Brennan raised their daughter on welfare while Jobs denied paternity by claiming he was sterile; he later acknowledged Lisa as his daughter (CNN). DUN DUN DUN.

Obviously, I did not personally know Steve Jobs and I am not here to bash his legacy. In fact, I have much respect and admiration for his professional accomplishments. I do not know if in my lifetime I will see the amount of innovation and complete transformation of our society by another name. I found out that Jobs had passed via Facebook (fitting right?) Millions of status’ were devoted to his passing, but one that I was exposed to I felt summed up his impact on my generation quite well. It came from one of my fellow Trojans who studied Music Industry and has a passion for everything that is music. It was as follows:

“Because of you, I’m able to write, record, and listen to music virtually anywhere I want. RIP Steve Jobs.”


A noticeably frail Jobs.

A copy of Jobs’ death certificate indicates that the Apple co-founder died of respiratory arrest resulting from pancreatic cancer that had spread to other organs (The Guardian).

Steve Jobs changed Human Behavior. He changed the way in which companies market, the way in which consumers act, think, and expect quality. He defines a movement of innovation. During one interview, Jobs stated, “There’s an old Wayne Gretzky quote that I love. ‘I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.’ And we’ve always tried to do that at Apple. Since the very very beginning. And we always will” – Steve Jobs

Starbucks: “Significant Investment, Significant Return”

Starbucks, the number one consumer brand on Facebook, understands, “Traditional marketing is changing dramatically. You can’t push people. You have to engage them in a conversation and they have to trust the source”-Howard Schultz, CEO and Chairman.

The New York Times article shows how the company directly applied social networking and digital media to their marketing strategies. Starbucks recently unveiled new advertising posters and invitied its consumers to search for the posters. A competitive twist was incorporated by being the first to post a photo of one of the advertisements on Twitter.

With the economic downturn, those who frequent the coffee chain are having a hard time rationalizing a five dollar white mocha each morning. Especially when McDonalds offers coffee at a fraction of the price. After all, coffee is coffee, right? Wrong, according to Starbucks. It should not come as a shock to us students of Human Behavior, Starbucks doesn’t only sell coffee, they sell a third-place environment; not home, not work, but Starbucks. The article, however, is quick to emphasize the quality of the brand. “The full-page newspaper ads goes to some length to describe how Starbucks selects only the best 3 percent of beans and roasts them until they pop twice, and gives its part-time workers health insurance.”

What is really quite genius about the brand is how they studied the embedded habits of social media users and were able to integrate their marketing campaign around behaviors that were already occurring, not the other way around. “The idea for the Starbucks photo contest came from watching what people already do on Facebookand Twitter.” The  brand was able to capitalize on behaviors that their customers were already participating in.

“It’s the difference between launching with many millions of dollars versus millions of fans.”

True, Starbucks probably spent quite a chunk of change on the new poster advertisement, (the wouldn’t reveal the exact cost) but that wasn’t their most significant breakthrough. Instead, it was what it translated to, a conversation online. While McDonalds spent 100 million dollars are their marketing campaign against Starbucks and other top competitors, Starbucks realized their strongest campaign was to join the one that was already alive and well within social media. How can your brand join the conversation?

Think Different.

How is the recession affecting consumer behavior?

“The biggest risk a marketer can take is to hope to survive doing business as usual.” This is an era in which everything that once was, is no longer. Word of mouth has been replaced by word of mouse, wedding invitations are now e-vites, and billboards are on the side of our facebook pages. The Unsolicited Advice of Marc E. Babej and Tim Pollak was written in 2008, but with the advances in new technology as well as the economic crisis we are yet STILL facing, their advice is still as relevant as ever.

As a student of Human Behavior, I play a dual role as both consumer and analyst. I am a victim and a culprit of my own craft. With that acknowledgment, I feel I can play the fence a little. Babej and Pollak note that when the economy is on a downward spiral so too is American optimism of their own financial state. Simple enough, right? It’s my job to capitalize on frugality and still make a profit. This, my friends, is hardly as simple.

Finding opportunity in the market place for a recession is not easy, but The Unsolicited Advice is quick to point out the silver lining, and in traditional American fashion, we justify trade-offs. “Put another way, fiscal sobriety doesn’t always mean literal sobriety. Consumers who are feeling deprived often seek solace in affordable entertainment alternatives. Beer, liquor, movies and home entertainment tend to do well in hard times.” What we think of as a “trade-off” is switching from an iced grande decaf soy upside-down easy caramel, caramel macchiato to a McFrappe at our local golden arches. You’re welcome.

My point is, there is a place for profit. Undoubtedly, the recession affects consumer behavior. The vitality lies in realizing how we as both marketers and consumers are able to capitalize on such fluctuation. We must market to the middle. The marketing battleground is the broad middle which both experts refer to. The middle class in America is shrinking, but those trying to stay afloat will still justify their upward spending while the individuals at the top may scale down to secure their position.

It is a compromise of economic proportion.