Original Research

Relational authenticity in workplace friendships

Tatenda Zigomo, Ruwayne G. Kock, Fiona M. Donald
SA Journal of Human Resource Management | Vol 22 | a2288 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajhrm.v22i0.2288 | © 2024 Tatenda Zigomo, Ruwayne Garth Kock, Fiona Margaret Donald | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 11 April 2023 | Published: 29 February 2024

About the author(s)

Tatenda Zigomo, Department of Psychology, School of Human and Community Development, Faculty of Humanities, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Ruwayne G. Kock, Department of Psychology, School of Human and Community Development, Faculty of Humanities, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Fiona M. Donald, Department of Psychology, School of Human and Community Development, Faculty of Humanities, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

Abstract

Orientation: This article focuses on the role of women’s workplace friendships in eliciting relational authenticity. Women in managerial and professional positions are often in the minority at work and minority groups are likely to experience greater challenges in expressing themselves authentically at work.

Research purpose: This study aimed to examine how workplace friendships elicit relational authenticity among women in professional and managerial positions in the private sector in South Africa.

Motivation for the study: Workplace authenticity is important for well-being, social fit at work and performance, but can be difficult to attain due to the risks involved. The study proposed that workplace friendships encourage authenticity, providing spaces where women feel accepted and able to express themselves authentically.

Research approach/design and method: A qualitative research design was followed. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 13 women.

Main findings: The key finding was that authentic self-expression becomes embedded in high quality workplace friendships where women can self-disclose. These friendships offer acceptance, self-verification and enhanced social fit.

Practical/managerial implications: Organisations need to consider how they can encourage friendships and other workplace relationships that facilitate relational authenticity and enhance employees’ social fit in the changing world of work.

Contribution/value-add: The study expands authenticity research beyond the individual, team or followership contexts to informal relationships with friends at work. It provides a deeper understanding of how workplace friendships facilitate relational authenticity through self-verification and social fit. These processes could be applied to other workplace relationships to enhance authenticity and its benefits to different work arrangements.


Keywords

relational authenticity; workplace friendship; social fit; self-verification; women at work

JEL Codes

J15: Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants • Non-labor Discrimination; J16: Economics of Gender • Non-labor Discrimination; J59: Other

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 3: Good health and well-being

Metrics

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