It’s widely assumed that the strong social ties formed between colleagues create a happier, more productive workforce, buoyed by employees’ supportive attitudes and shared objectives. This assumption becomes especially important as teams and group work become more prevalent within companies. As the thinking goes, personal relationships forged in the workplace should help teammates be forthright with each other, share insights more efficiently, help rather than undermine one another, and improve the group’s overall performance. Who wouldn’t prefer to work with a bunch of good buddies?
However, according to a new study of more than 180 teams at a national travel agency, too much of a good thing can backfire over time. Although social ties initially improved a team’s performance, the author found that excessive cohesion among colleagues eventually caused the reverse effect. Why? It’s probably because overly friendly teams lapse into groupthink, inhibiting their pursuit of new ideas and strategies. In other words, the author suggests, there’s a distinct downside to positive social networking, and a point at which stronger interpersonal bonds among teammates begin to lead to increasingly negative performance outcomes for their group.