Employers often hold work events in order to create a sense of unity among workers, especially among those who are racially dissimilar, but a new study reveals that they don't always work out.
The study found that while those who attend work social events said that their relationships at work are improved, it wasn't the case for workers racially dissimilar from their co-workers, like being the only African-American person in an all-white office, or vice versa.
Tracy Dumas, lead author of the study and assistant professor of management and human resources at The Ohio State University's Fisher College of Business, said that there was something about being different from their colleagues that made socializing ineffectual in building better relationships
The researchers, which also included Katherine Phillips of the Columbia Business School at Columbia University and Nancy Rothbard of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, came to the conclusion after conducting two related studies.
In the first study, 165 first-year MBA students were surveyed and asked questions about how much they talked about their non-work life with colleagues and how often they attended company-sponsored or informal work-related gatherings, as well as the demographic data of co-workers.
The students were also asked to rate how close they felt to each co-worker in their immediate workplace; the findings showed that the more social interaction they had with their colleagues, the closer they felt - if they were racially similar.
However, those dissimilar from colleagues did not see increase in closeness with more social interaction.
The second study, which asked similar questions to 141 adults of different races, found that among workers racially similar to their colleagues, attending social events of company was associated with greater enjoyment and comfort. But for the workers racially different from the majority the positive association was not there.
Dumas said that the study showed that the results are not because dissimilar people were avoiding social encounters with their colleagues but for them, the connection between attending the events and enjoying the events was different.
The study is currently online in the journal Organization Science and will appear in a future print edition.