For their study, titled Relationships @Work, researchers surveyed more than 11,500 full-time professionals ages 18 to 65 in the U.S, Sweden, India, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Spain, the Netherlands, Malaysia, Italy, Indonesia, Brazil, and the U.K.
What did they find? Forty-six percent of respondents said work friendships play a role in their overall happiness, and it’s clear from the research that the value placed on workplace friendships and the level of confidence (or how personal they were) vary significantly depending on the generation.
Millennials share details of their lives
For example, although 46 percent of respondents said work friendships play a role in their overall happiness, this data point increased for millennial respondents (ages 18-24), up to 57 percent. Respondents in this age group also felt that work friendships were motivating (50 percent) and made them more productive (39 percent).
The research also found millennials to be much more likely to share personal details with friends at work.
Two-thirds (67 percent) of millennial respondents said they share details of their lives such as salary, relationships, and family issues with work buddies. This is a major shift from the days when mentioning salaries or details of one’s personal life was taboo.
Millennials’ potential “over-sharing” doesn’t seem to be rubbing off on their older colleagues, however; only 3 percent of Baby Boomers say they’re likely to share personal details with work friends.
Millennials’ casual approach to communication with work friends is also reflected in their relationships with managers. LinkedIn and Censuswide’s research found that 28 percent of millennials have texted a manager out of work hours for a non-work-related issue. This compared with only 10 percent of Baby Boomers.
Loyalty to former colleagues
Why are millennials gushing to buddies at work? It may not be so much a facet of their generation’s personality, but rather a genuine attempt to further their career.
One-third of millennials, versus 5 percent of Baby Boomers, said they think socializing with colleagues helps them move up the career ladder. Note too, that 18 percent of respondents (all generations) say that friendships with colleagues make them more competitive in their careers, so although close friendships at work may be a greater trend for millennials, it is not a trend exclusive to that generation.
Additionally, 51 percent of respondents (all generations) say they stay in touch with former colleagues. Though we can’t say where exactly the value of this comes from (friendship, mentor, resource, networking, etc.), it does indicate respondents have a loyalty to past colleagues and work friendships.
It seems that globally, too, workplace friendships have a high level of importance. In India, for example, one in three professionals say their closest work colleagues understand them better than their partners.
Overall, these data remind us that people communicate in varied ways, whether individually or by the larger personality of an age group. Specifically, though, when it comes to retaining millennial employees, this desire for work friendships and casual communication could be an untapped point of value for employees.
As workplaces span ever-widening age ranges, it becomes important (even vital) to recognize the different, and evolving, communication styles of various employees.
China Gorman is CEO of Great Place to Work, a company dedicated to improving society by helping companies create better workplaces. Read her blog at ChinaGorman.com, where a version of this article originally ran. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.