This summary is provided by the IPR Organizational Communication Research Center.
Workplace relationships have an immense impact on employees’ job satisfaction, cohesive climates, creativity, and innovation. This study focused on coworker relationships and why and how coworker relationships developed into workplace friendships. The authors argued that task interdependence is an important factor in driving workplace friendships. Task interdependence refers to coworkers’ dependence on one another to complete tasks competently. Notably, task interdependence does not end with a specific project but is incorporated into employees’ ongoing, daily tasks. In addition, the authors claimed that task interdependence would increase communication frequency and trust between coworkers, which, in turn, foster friendship closeness. Moreover, perceived task interdependence can be asymmetrical, indicating an employee may depend on another coworker to a greater/lesser extent to accomplish tasks. Asymmetrical interdependence leads to power differentials and is posited to decrease coworker communication frequency and trust. However, the direction of asymmetrical task interdependence should matter in how task asymmetry influences trust. The more dependent an employee is on a coworker, the stronger the positive relationships between perceived task interdependence and communication frequency and trust.
In total, 210 U.S. adults were recruited through an online panel. Fifty-six were female. The largest age group was between 26-34 years old (31%). Most (79%) were Caucasian, 8% were African American, 9% were Hispanic, 3% were Asian, and 1% were Native American. Approximately 22% held managerial positions. On average, participants had six years’ tenure with their current organization.
1.) Ongoing task interdependence directly enhanced friendship closeness.
2.) Ongoing task interdependence positively influenced employees’ communication frequency with both friend and non-friend coworkers, which increased workplace relationship quality.
3.) Ongoing task interdependence fostered effective trust and emotional ties among coworkers.
4.) Informal communication (e.g., face-to-face conversation, phone conversation, and texting) more likely cultivated closer workplace friendships than formal communication.
5.)There will be lower levels of trust between coworkers when their perceived task dependence is more asymmetric.
Implications for practice
Organizations should 1) understand how task interdependence is related to friendship development, 2) incorporate more interdependence into task design, and 3) measure coworker communication frequency and trust to gauge workplace friendships.
Sias, P. M., Tsetsi, E., Woo, N., & Smith, A. D. (2020). With a little help from my friends: Perceived task interdependence, coworker communication, and workplace friendship
Communication Studies, 1-22.
Location of Article
This article is available online at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10510974.2020.1749863 (abstract free, purchase full article)