Researching workplace friendships: drawing insights from the sociology of friendship

Nick Rumens

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Abstract

Although organizational research on workplace friendships is well established, it has been criticized for its predominately postpositivistic outlook, which largely focuses on how workplace friendships can be linked to improving organizational outcomes such as efficiency and performance. As a consequence other aspects of the lived experiences of work and friendship are obscured, in particular how these friendships are important in their own right and how they function as social and personal relationships. Supplementing postpositivistic research on workplace friendships, this article shows how researchers can derive theoretical insights from a ‘sociology of friendship’. The main contribution of this article relates to the development of a sociology of workplace friendship that understands the porous and mutable nature of these relationships and considers the social and personal factors that influence their role, place and meaning in the workplace. As such, three sociological frames of analysis are elaborated that encourage researchers to examine friendships at work as a set of contextually contingent social practices and as historically patterned social and personal relationships. This article articulates an agenda of research to inspire and guide researchers using these frames, one potential outcome of which is generating much needed scholarship that explores how workplace friendships contribute to human flourishing.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 22 Sep 2016

Keywords

  • friendship
  • human flourishing
  • organizational relationships
  • social practices
  • sociology of friendship
  • workplace friendships

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