Topic: Employee Interpersonal Communication; Digital Communication in the Workplace

Authors, Title and Publication
Sias, P. M., Pedersen, H., Gallagher, E. B., & Kopaneva, I. (2012). Workplace friendship in the electronically connected organization. Human Communication Research, 38(3), 253-279.

This study examined information communication technologies and workplace friendship dynamics. The literature has identified two primary types of factors that affect workplace friendship development—individual and contextual. Individual factors derive from the individual partners themselves and include personality and perceived similarity. For instance, individuals tend to seek ties with similar others and to form relationships with people whose personality traits they like and admire. Contextual factors derive from the contexts in which the friendship exists, including 1) external factors such as significant life events (e.g., divorce, illness) and socializing outside the workplace, and 2) internal contextual factors such as physical proximity, shared tasks and projects, and work-related problems. Given the increased media choices available to employees and the increase in the number of individuals who accomplish their work from remote locations, this study examined the relative importance of these influencing factors and different communication channels (e.g., telephone, email, texting, face-to-face interaction, paper documents, teleconferencing, social networking, and instant messengers) in developing workplace friendship in the contemporary “electronically connected” organization.

An online survey was completed by 274 adults employed full-time at diverse organizations. Results indicated that personality, shared tasks, and perceived similarity are the most important factors in coworker friendship initiation, and the importance of physical proximity to workplace friendship is diminishing in the electronically connected workplace. Results confirmed the primacy of face-to-face interaction for workplace friendship initiation and maintenance. E-mail, phone, and texting were also found central to communication among workplace friends. The amount of time spent telecommuting affects workplace friendship initiation and communication. Finally, employees of younger generations are more likely to experience social presence and engage in hyperpersonal communication via Internet-based communication technology than are those from older generations.

Implications for Practice
Organizations should 1) provide opportunities for face-to-face interaction among employees whenever possible; 2) encourage employees to work together on shared tasks and projects; and 3) ensure telecommuters have access to and opportunities to use teleconferencing to communicate with their coworkers.

Location of Article
The article is available online at: (abstract free, purchase full article)



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