Exploring peer co-worker interpersonal relationships among employees within selected South African organisations
These last few years have seen numerous changes occurring in South African organisations. Never before was the importance of working together emphasised such as it is today. As jobs became more interconnected and teamwork has become non-negotiable, the demand for functional, effective relationships in the workplace has increased. Employees are spending copious amounts of time in the workplace and with fellow co-workers. These interactions have many important implications for individuals as well as for the organisation. The absence of healthy, positive co-worker relationships has many negative consequences for organisations and prohibits employees and organisations to reach their ultimate objectives and successes. It therefore seems that peer co-worker interpersonal relationships are an important topic to research. The objective of this study was to explore how peer co-worker interpersonal relationships in the workplace influence organisational outcomes. This research study was of a qualitative nature, within the social constructivism paradigm. A phenomenological approach was further employed to achieve the objectives of this research study. Purposive sampling was used in this research study, together with a multiple-case study strategy. Employees who were involved in this study (N=18) were from selected South African organisations. These organisations formed part of the Food & Beverages industry, as well as the Information Technology and Services industry. Semi-structured interviews were conducted in order to collect data while data analysis was accomplished by utilising thematic analysis. The results of this research study indicated that employees within selected South African organisations experience relationships differently and that different meanings are attached to peer co-worker interpersonal relationships. Results indicated that employees experience both negative and positive relationships with their peers. Participants provided detailed descriptions of their peer co-worker relationships and also why they would describe a certain relationship as positive or negative. Employees also provided insightful answers to those aspects they find crucial in any positive relationship. Results indicated that aspects such as attentive listening, instrumental support, friendliness, honesty, respect and trust are imperative for any relationship that hopes to function optimally. The results of this study also indicated that peer co-worker relationships have a definite influence on employees' personal work performance. When employees struggle to develop positive and uplifting relationships with their peers, their work performance seems to decrease. However, when meaningful relationships are evident in the workplace, employees find it easier to perform their work and the desire to grow and move forward is prevalent. The organisation is a social platform and collaboration is therefore needed in order to reach certain objectives. This research study therefore provides results that specify the influence peer co-worker relationships have on organisational outcomes and the ultimate success of the organisation. Participants agreed that the influence their co-worker relationships have on the organisation is major. Poor relationships can have a negative influence on important outcomes such as turnover intentions, employee engagement and morale. On the other hand, employees feel that healthy workplace relationships result in positive organisational outcomes. Recommendations were also made with regard to future research and practice. Managers employed in organisations should raise awareness concerning the influence co-worker relationships have on the organisation. Organisational cultures should be developed that invite healthy connections and managers should incorporate productive interventions that will foster meaningful relationships between employees. Employees should be trained on the important aspects necessary for relationships to function. Organisations should also provide co-workers with more opportunities to interact informally with one another and interactions outside of the workplace should also be promoted.