Millennials Have More Work Friends, But They’re Really More Like Work Frenemies

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Well, I’ve got good news and bad news. According to a survey just released by LinkedIn, the millennials have realized that not only is it OK to have friends at work, but even better, it might even make you happier at your job in the long run. Cool, right? But then there’s the bad news: Those same millennials who are so gung-ho about their work buddies are also not at all shy about throwing their colleagues under the bus in order to advance their own careers. I don’t know about you, but that makes the whole thing sound a little more like work frenemies that actual friends to me.

In April of 2014, LinkedIn and Censuswide joined forces to survey more than 11,500 full-time professionals between the ages of 18 and 65 in 14 countries across the globe. For reference, millennials are defined for the purposes of this survey as respondents between the ages of 18 and 24, and baby boomers as respondents between the ages of 55 and 65. More than any other age group, millennials say that having friends in the workplace impacts them positively: 57 percent say they feel happier, 50 percent say it motivates them, and 39 percent say it makes them more productive. In contrast, 45 percent of baby boomers — that’s almost half of them — say that whether or not they have work friends doesn’t affect their performance at all. LinkedIn wrote a friendly little blog post about the survey and assembled the data into an easy-to-look-at infographic, which at first makes it seem like our workplaces these days are a lot nicer than they used to be:

But if you check out the actual press release about the survey, there’s some additional information that isn’t included in the blog post: First, almost one in three millennials thinks that socializing with their colleagues will help them advance in their career, putting a little bit of tarnish on that whole “we’re all such good friends!” image; and what’s more, 68 percent of millennials said they would actually go ahead and sacrifice a work friendship for the sake of a promotion. In contrast, 62 percent of baby boomers said they would never even consider making such a move, let alone actually doing it.

So much for a super friendly, super productive workplace.

Business Week notes that the study paints millennials as exceedingly disloyal employees, both to their employers and to their fellow drones. Why is this the case? I’m theorizing here, but it probably has something to do with the state of the economy. Full-time jobs with livable pay and good benefits have become increasingly hard to find these days; additionally, there’s a lot more competition for them and a lot less security once you’ve landed them. In answer to Business Week, disloyalty to both employers and colleagues might all be part of the same vicious cycle: Employers and disloyal to their employees, so employees are disloyal to their employers in return, and so on and so forth; similarly, one work friend is disloyal to another, resulting in more backstab-y behavior in return, lather, rinse, repeat.

But hey, it’s not all bad. Three out of five millennials also reported that socializing in person with coworkers improves their working environment in general — and who doesn’t want a comfortable place to work?

Check out more of the results via LinkedIn.

Images: Quick Meme