COMPANY CULTURE / DEC. 24, 2014
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Research Shows the Importance of Employee Social Networks

It’s fairly well accepted that your peers play a crucial role in your happiness at work. A recent study from academics at Monash University highlight just how important our work social network is when it comes to coping with the numerous stressful events that we encounter each day at work.

This is especially so when the economy is as bad as it has been in recent years, with employees often struggling with pay cuts or fewer hours, a lack of promotional opportunities or a lack of training and development. Most of these tactics are quite commonly deployed by organisations that are struggling to survive during a recession, yet they’re all things usually that make employees feel bad.

That’s the standard line of thinking anyway, except the new paper from Monash suggests it might not always be the case. It went as far as to suggest that change doesn’t always result in negative emotions for employees. Indeed, if they are well connected with their peers and have a strong cultural fit with their employer, they found that the change can actually prove positive.

The researchers surveyed a number of employees to try and gauge how they typically react to various breaches of the psychological contract they have with their employer. This is the term researchers use when describing events whereby the employer has broken a promise to an employee, or at least the employee perceives this to have happened.  Most research to date suggests that such a breach usually provokes negative responses from employees, including a reduction in productivity, employee disengagement and generally a withdrawal from one’s work.

The study, conducted over a six month period found, however, that employees can react positively to such seemingly negative events in the workplace. When analysing what set these positive deviants apart from their peers, the study found that social networks and cultural fit were key.

"Employees do not always respond destructively to broken promises by their employer, especially when they are well connected, fit the organisation and have little to lose if they were to leave," the researchers say.

The research suggests that it’s crucial for employees to be as active a participant in the workplace as they can be to provide a buffer against such shocks.  It also underlines the importance of having a strong cultural fit with your employer, and that recruiters should do all they can to ensure that this occurs.

Suffice to say, the researchers are at pains to point out that their findings should not be seen as a green light for employers to break the contract they have with their employees.

"Today’s volatile business environment makes it increasingly difficult for organisations to fulfill all their obligations to employees. By implementing human resource practices that increase employees’ social connectivity and fit within the workplace, companies may empower employees to adopt a constructive response if or when breach does occur."

"That might mean regular social events, mentoring programs or the use of role models as a means to improve employees social connectivity within the workplace," they conclude.

These fascinating findings are just one more reason to ensure that you are as connected in your organisation as possible.

 

Image: iStock

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