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home : insight & opinion : guest columns
February 21, 2019

1/21/2019 2:11:00 PM
'Work friends' are important, too - here's why
For the Daily News

I'm the human resources manager at the Marathon Petroleum refinery in Robinson. While my family and I have been proud to call Crawford County home since December 2017, folks who know me may know I'm originally from Morgantown, W.Va., and have traveled to different locations with Marathon over the past 14 years.

That being said, I've had a truly wonderful transition to Robinson; I believe - in large part - due to the positive interpersonal relationships I've been blessed to develop both in and outside of work since we arrived.

I'm excited to have the opportunity through one of those friendships to share my personal perspective on a subject I'm passionate about: mental health, and the ways it can affect people - both positively and negatively - in the workplace. Today, I'd like to touch on the importance of positive relationships with other people at work; how those friendships make difficult times easier, and good times even better.

I'm sure we've all heard the saying (maybe said it ourselves a few times), "I don't come to work to make friends." Most people don't - there are easier ways to do it - and certainly, you have to be careful when supervising people you have friendships with that those relationships don't affect your judgment, or cause issues within you work group.

You've probably also heard, "I don't live to work - I work to live." And while that's hopefully true for the majority of us - from a priority standpoint, at least - the truth of the matter is, there are 24 hours in a day. For the average full-time worker, we spend the majority of our waking moments throughout the majority of the week with our coworkers vs. with our families. So while we may not go to work to make friends, it sure helps to have good relationships with the other people that are there.

It's not just helpful so we can enjoy what we do with the majority of our time awake during our work-week (whatever that week looks like; for some, it's five eight-hour days; for some, it's a rotating shift, or a straight shift of more than eight hours a day) also makes a big difference in how we feel, both mentally and physically.

While some people tend to be more outgoing and some lean more toward introversion, we're all - as human beings - naturally social creatures. As such, we have a desire to be a part of a "bigger whole' - which is why coworkers liking one another isn't just good for employees, but for employers.

As contributing author Alice G. Walton noted in the October 2016 article, "Why Work Relationships Affect Our Mental and Physical Health," when employees identify as part of a larger, cohesive group within the workplace, it has several positive affects on health and well-being. They feel more in control, feel a stronger sense of belonging, and attribute more meaning and purpose to their roles than they might otherwise. (

Think about almost any time you've really loved the job you were doing. Undoubtedly you were doing something you felt you were good at, in a physical work environment that was probably at least ok most of the time. What was the real differentiating factor, though? Looking back (or hopefully, looking at your current role), the people you work with make the real difference.

As a human resources professional, employee retention is one of the biggest concerns I deal with. The investment a company makes when it chooses to hire, train, and develop a new employee is enormous. The gamble the company takes is that that investment will eventually pay off with a productive, long-term employee. The likelihood that will actually happen if a new employee fails to form positive, collaborative relationships with their coworkers is very low. Either they'll be dissatisfied with the work experience and leave as soon as they're able, or worse - they'll hang around miserably, passing along those feelings of negativity to others.

This is one of the major reasons companies teach employees about the concept of inclusion: not only does inclusion make people feel good, it makes people more productive. Teams who clash constantly can't achieve the same results as teams who respect one another and have genuine care and consideration for their teammates. And individual contributors who feel better about themselves because they have good relationships with their coworkers tend to operate with more proficiency than people who feel isolated or ostracized in the workplace.

So even though we tend to think it's important to maintain a separation between personal life and work life (and I don't disagree - there are some aspects of home that just can't come to work, and vice-versa), I would argue it's extremely difficult - if not impossible - to be a fully productive individual without some meaningful friendships at work. It doesn't have to cost productivity for employees to take a small amount of time to build familiarity, trust, and camaraderie, and the benefits to both employees and employers are considerable. If you were asked what you like best about the place you work now, what would you say? If your answer would be the same as mine..."the people" can consider yourself lucky.

Please follow us on our Facebook page to find information on how to educate yourself and others and advocate for the needs in our community. We can't accomplish our goals without your help.

Editor's Note: These occasional guest columns are provided by Crawford County LIFE, a new local non-profit that "exists to liberate residents of preconceived ideas and addictive behaviors by educating to improve understanding of themselves and their needs; to facilitate community resources with the goal to empower residents toward better emotional, physical and mental health." For more information, check out Crawford County LIFE's Facebook page.

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