Workplace friendships and working relationships that go sour can damage the emotional health, productivity and motivation of the UK’s 29 million employees*, according to research from Canada Life Group Insurance.

First-hand experience:
As the credit crunch continues to bite and employees worry about their job security, workplaces are proving to be increasingly hostile environments. Indeed, just over a quarter (26%) of employees believe that a senior colleague has abused their position of power – and 14% believe that they have deliberately been set up to fail at a task by a colleague who they do not get on with.

In addition, 26% have fallen out with a colleague who they say has made their working life more difficult, and 25% feel as though they have been poorly treated because they are different or ‘do not fit in’.

Unhappy workplace relationships are not conducive to a productive working environment – and in some cases, have led to employee absence. One in ten (10%) have taken time off as sick to avoid bullying in the workplace, while 11% have done so because they say have been treated unfairly by a line manager.

Ill-Health Impact:
While employers have a statuary requirement to support those who are suffering from illness, more than one in ten (13%) or 3.7 million employees feel they have been unfairly treated due to ill-health or prolonged absence. This clearly highlights that employers need to do more to support and rehabilitate employees who are facing this situation.

Perception of others:
Employees seem more likely to recognise when their colleagues are treated unfairly – be it getting undeserved praise or unwarranted criticism – rather than if they are facing these issues. Almost two-thirds (64%) believe they have witnessed colleagues benefitting from favouritism but just 12% say they have benefitted from this.

Over half (54%) would say that some members of staff get away with doing less work because of their friendships with other employees (7% – themselves). Two-fifths (42%) have witnessed senior members of staff abusing their power in the workplace, and 47% have seen colleagues making life more difficult for one another after a falling out

This could have as demoralising an effect as witnessing bullying or ill-treatment; a third (36%) have witnessed colleagues receiving praise and recognition – even though they feel have not worked as hard as they should.

Separate lives
Employees are choosing to keep their personal and professional lives very separate (28%); just 27% would talk to a colleague if they saw them outside of work, and an overwhelming majority would avoid saying hello if they bumped into them on holiday (88%). Just under a quarter (24%) would class any of their colleagues as personal friends, and only 6% would say that they really enjoyed socialising with their colleagues.

Paul Avis, Sales and Marketing Director at Canada Life Group Insurance comments:
“Many employees are under considerably more pressure than they were several years ago, and this in turn can place a significant strain upon workplace relationships. However, co-operation and teamwork are crucial to the success of any business. Employers must ensure that they encourage employees to work together – not only to ensure their happiness and welfare, but also to facilitate a productive working environment.
“By offering employees access to support services and advice they have the opportunity to discuss any problems they are having with colleagues, or problems with their own work or personal life that might be having an effect upon their working relationships.”