Topic: Workplace Relationships

Author(s), Title and Publication
Sias, R. M., Gallagher, E. B., Kopaneva, I., & Pedersen, H. (2012). Maintaining Workplace Friendships: Perceived Politeness and Predictors of Maintenance Tactic Choice. Communication Research, 39(2), 239-268.

This three-part study investigated how organizational members maintain peer friendships. In the first study, members identified a set of workplace friendship maintenance tactics by conducting two focus groups. Ten employees generated 40 maintenance tactic items related to escalating situations (one party feels uncomfortable with the growing closeness of the relationship), and deteriorating situations (one party feels the other is distancing him-or-herself from the relationship and doesn’t want the relationship to deteriorate). Escalating situation related-items were categorized into avoidance, indirect conversational refocus, direct conversational refocus, and openness. Deteriorating situation related-items were categorized into creating closeness, deception, circumspection, and openness.

The second study assessed the politeness nature of the tactics by surveying 157 undergraduate students. Results showed that in escalating situations, participants perceived “indirect conversational refocus” as the most polite maintenance tactic, followed by “openness” and “avoidance.” In deteriorating situations, participants perceived “circumspection” and “creating closeness” as the most polite strategies, followed by “openness” and “deception.”

Study three examined the predictors of employees’ choice of friendship maintenance tactics by surveying 265 employees online. Results revealed that perceived politeness was the strongest predictor of use of relationship maintenance strategy. In escalating situations, the employees who work closely with others and highly depend on each other to do the jobs (high interdependence condition) were more likely to use “direct conversational refocus” strategy. In deteriorating situations, those in the low interdependence condition were more likely to use “creating closeness” and “circumspection” than those in the high condition. Those who are comfortable with closeness and independence, and those who fear intimacy and commitment, were more likely to use a “creating closeness” strategy than were those who value independence but tend to avoid intimacy.

Implications for Practice
Simply put, practitioners may help employees maintain their friendships and strengthen their relationships with other employees by developing communication methods perceived as polite and considerate of their coworkers. This also may enhance work team identity.

Location of Article
The article is available online at: (full text)

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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