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Why women should be encouraged to be friends with female co-workers

Women have trouble working with other female colleagues and according to reports, they are more likely to complain about difficult relationships in the work place as being caused by another woman. But a new study suggests that these issues could be easily resolved if employers would promote friendship among female workers. 

Promoting positive relationships between women in the workplace can go a long way to improve the office environment.  According to a new study in the journal Organization Science, supporting positive social relationships between women coworkers, especially in primarily male dominated organizations, can lead to less conflict.

The study, conducted by Jenifer Merluzzi of George Washington University looked at 145 management-level employees that worked at two large U.S. firms where women represented than one-third of the workforce and under 15 percent of the senior management.

Merluzzi looked at the work dynamics and found that while men and women were equally likely to cite having a difficult co-worker, compared to men, women were more likely to cite another woman as a difficult coworker than they are to cite a man, or not cite anyone.

But what the analysis also showed was that this tendency was reduced among women who cited having more women coworkers for social support and friendship at work.

“While gender diversity and inequality are well document topics in management, sociology and labor economics, few have looked closely at the gendered negative relationships within the workplace from a social relationship perspective,” said Merluzzi. “Understanding the relational side of conflict also bears practical importance as companies increasingly organize using diverse teams, heightening the reliance on informal ties between and within gender to get work accomplished.”

The new study could help companies identify conflict spots before they appear and employ new tools in order to promote a conflict-free work environment.

Sylvia Jacob