ONCE, work was a major source of friendships. We took our families to company picnics and invited our colleagues over for dinner. Now, work is a more transactional place. We go to the office to be efficient, not to form bonds. We have plenty of productive conversations but fewer meaningful relationships.
In 1985, about half of Americans said they had a close friend at work; by 2004, this was true for only 30 percent. And in nationally representative surveys of American high school seniors, the proportion who said it was very important to find a job where they could make friends dropped from 54 percent in 1976, to 48 percent in 1991, to 41 percent in 2006.
We may start companies with our friends, but we don’t become friends with our co-workers. “We are not only ‘bowling alone,’ ” Jeffrey Pfeffer, a professor at Stanford, observes, “We are increasingly ‘working alone.’ ”
Whether we bond at work is a personal decision, but it may involve less effort and vulnerability than we realize. Jane E. Dutton, a professor at the University of Michigan, finds that a high-quality connection doesn’t require “a deep or intimate relationship.” A single interaction marked by respect, trust and mutual engagement is enough to generate energy for both parties. However small they appear, those moments of connection can transform a transaction into a relationship.
Read the full article "Friends at Work? Not So Much" at The New York Times.