Working Against Loneliness: Examining the Impact of Workplace Relationships on Loneliness in Young Adults

Open Access
Yan, Jiahao
Area of Honors:
Hospitality Management
Bachelor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Michael J Tews, Jr., Thesis Supervisor
  • Michael J Tews, Jr., Honors Advisor
  • Phillip Michael Jolly, Faculty Reader
  • workplace relationships
  • loneliness
  • young adults
  • millennials
  • Gen Z
  • psychology
  • basic psychological needs
  • self-determination theory
  • employee wellbeing
While large bodies of literature exist on factors which combat loneliness, the impact of relationships stemming from the workplace has yet to be thoroughly examined, especially in the context of young adults. The present research endeavor draws on basic psychological needs theory and workplace literature to build and test a theoretical model of workplace peer relationships and loneliness to offer evidence that such relationships can help reduce feelings of loneliness in the lives of young adults outside of work. Specifically, the three types of work peers identified by Kram and Isabella (1985) were tested. With a sample of recent university graduates, results indicated that the presence of collegial and special peers significantly improved relatedness needs satisfaction at work, which in turn was related to lower levels of loneliness in life. Interestingly, the presence of information peers adversely impacted employees’ level of relatedness needs satisfaction at work. Relatedness needs satisfaction outside of work was found to moderate the relatedness needs satisfaction at work - loneliness relationship, such that as needs satisfaction outside of work decreased, needs satisfaction at work had stronger relationships with feelings of loneliness. Implications of the results are discussed with respect to the value of fostering peer relationships in the workplace for organizations and the importance of differentiating types of relationships that may exist in the workplace for understanding their unique impact on employee wellbeing indicators such as loneliness.