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Does Working with Friends Increase Performance?

Does working with friends make you perform better on the job? Or would it be better to work with strangers?

Results from a recent analysis—including results from 26 different studies and nearly 1,000 teams—give us some interesting answers.

Working with friends

There are reasons to think that working with friends can increase job performance.

For example:

  • Feeling uninhibited can make people happy.
  • Happiness can increase job performance.
  • A positive workplace culture can increase job performance.
  • Friends are less likely to misinterpret each other’s moods and attitudes.

But then again, there are reasons to think working with friends isn’t always such a great idea.

For example:

  • Being too friendly can make leaders less effective.
  • Teams with too much “positive attitude” tend to perform worse.
  • Being social and outgoing hurts performance when teams aren’t well-organized.
  • Friends sometimes ignore input from strangers, thus hurting performance.

What does this all mean? When researchers put together all the data they could get their hands on, here’s what they found.

Working with friends increases performance.

Friends working together tend to perform better than strangers working together. On average. But there is more to the story.

Group size increases the effect.

The benefit of working with friends increases as group size increases. Larger teams get a larger performance boost from being friends.

The real effect is the amount of work done.

There’s a difference between performance quantity and performance quality.

  • Quantity is the amount of work done. You might call this “output” or “productivity.”

Working with friends increases performance quantity.

  • Quality is, well, it’s the quality of the work done.

Working with friends has no effect on performance quality.

When friends work together, they do tend to get more done, but the quality of the work done isn’t necessarily any better.