If You Want To Succeed, Don’t Work With Your Friends
That’s what a new study from Harvard suggests, at least.
Most of us appreciate working with a good friend we can relate to. If we’re going to work long hours for months on end, of course we’ll want a coworker with whom we can connect and decompress. While that may be good for our morale, this Harvard study finds that working with friends is actually bad for business.
Duos who shared a lot of personal characteristics were generally much less successful on their deals than teams that got together based on talent. For instance, if two members of the same ethnic minority collaborated, their likelihood of success fell 25 percent. Deals involving two investors who got their bachelor's at the same school were 22 percent less successful.
In your experience, what are the pros and cons of working with your friends? Here’s what the folks at Harvard have to say about it, followed by why I choose to ignore their results:
As the researchers note, groups that are alike tend to think alike. Or, more precisely, they force themselves to think alike. Rather than challenge each other and risk a confrontation, they strive for unanimity. As a result of this nasty propensity for groupthink, they may ignore the potential pitfalls of bad decisions or block out other viewpoints from outside the team.
The study focused primarily on venture capitalists, but the findings could be applied to jobs all over Wall Street. While I find this research interesting, I can say from personal experience that having a coworker with a radically different background and personality can make things difficult.
In school, for example, I find it easier to point out a potential flaw to someone if he’s a close buddy. Working with someone you don’t consider a friend can make it difficult to establish chemistry and awkward to voice difference of opinion. When it comes down to it, I’d rather enjoy my workdays with a business partner who's a good friend, even if that means our “success falls 25%.”
Perhaps the best strategy is to settle somewhere in the middle: Find a business partner who is 1) your friend, but who also is 2) not afraid to challenge your opinions and look at things from a different perspective. Best of both worlds.
Do you think being too comfortable with your coworkers can be bad for business?