GradPSYCH - January 2012 - (Page 18)

DEgrEE INSIgHT Friends and co-workers Research offers insights into how to juggle your personal and professional relationships in research settings. by bETh azar niversity of Washington, St. Louis, graduate student Adam Putnam tries to get to know the undergraduate students he oversees in his adviser’s memory lab. Being friendly — sharing lunch, playing ping-pong, telling jokes — makes coming to work more enjoyable for him and his colleagues, but it can also lead to problems, he’s found. His first semester he was so relaxed about deadlines with his undergraduates he had to adjust some of his research plans because of delays. That experience taught him a lesson: There are times when you can wear your “friend” hat, but other times when you need to be the boss, he says. The following semester Putnam allowed lab assistants to choose their own deadlines, but all were before a certain drop-dead date. “I gave them the power to decide, but once they did, I told them that I would hold them to it,” he says. Putnam is wise to try to walk the line between supervisor and friend — research shows that workplace friendships can increase job satisfaction, productivity and job commitment while decreasing stress and turnover. However, research also suggests that some workplace friendships can cause problems. For example, people who form friendships to advance their career don’t work well in teams, while more genuine relationships — those based on common interests and trust — tend to improve workplace morale, according to research by Hilla Dotan, PhD, an assistant professor at Tel Aviv University. The findings come from a study published in 2009 in the Academy of Management Annual Meeting Proceedings, in which she surveyed 1,057 employees from an array of U.S. businesses including department stores, financial firms and chemical companies. 18 • gradPSYCH • January 2012 U “If we learn to manage [workplace friendships] and understand them and bring them to be a strategic part of decision-making, we can use them to everyone’s benefit; both employees’ and organizations’” says Dotan. Friendships’ flaws Three decades of research have converged on the finding that workplace friendships generally improve productivity and morale. That’s certainly been the case for University of Wisconsin clinical psychology graduate student Emily Schweigert, who says that having close friends in her lab has been essential to her success in graduate school. They provide practical support by sharing knowledge and data, but the biggest benefit, says Schweigert, “is the emotional and moral support that we provide each other. We go through the same struggles and understand each others’ challenges and hurdles.” But workplace friendships can have drawbacks, according to research by organizational psychologist Rachel Morrison, PhD, of the Auckland University of Technology. In one study published in 2007 in the University of Auckland Business Review, Morrison surveyed 445 workers representing a large variety of industries. When prompted to describe examples of how a friendly workplace relationship made their work more difficult, more than 200 respondents shared stories of workplace friendships blurring boundaries, distracting employees and hampering productivity. Morrison’s study didn’t examine why some friendships caused problems and others didn’t, but work by University of Arizona business professor Patricia Sias, PhD, suggests that conflicting expectations may be an issue. In a 2004 study published in the Journal of Social and Personal

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of GradPSYCH - January 2012

GradPSYCH - January 2012
Psychology grad school enrollment drops, despite record numbers of applicants
Students leave their iPods at home during ‘crunch time’
Media Picks
Chair’s Corner
Odd Jobs
Research Roundup
Hot careers: Video game design and development
Friends and co-workers
Time to bail?
Scaling Mount Publication
Need to heal thyself?
Staying connected
Matters to a Degree
Power up your PowerPoint
Dissertations vs. diapers
Searching for answers
Bulletin Board
Jobs, internships, postdocs and other opportunities
The Back Page

GradPSYCH - January 2012