In today’s Academic Minute, Dr. Melissa Sloan of the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee explores the role of race in determining workplace satisfaction.
Melissa Sloan is an assistant professor of interdisciplinary social sciences at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee. Her research investigates the relationships among occupational and job characteristics, workplace status, the experience and expression of emotion in the workplace, and psychological well-being. She holds a Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University.
Dr. Melissa Sloan – Race and Workplace Satisfaction
Previous research has highlighted career-related disadvantages experienced by African American workers, but social and emotional disadvantages have been given less attention. This is important because today’s workplace is considered a key context for the development of supportive relationships with others. In this study, we tested two theories of race and workplace friendships using data from an anonymous survey of over 1300 public sector workers.
Our analyses showed many race differences in workplace relationships. Black workers had fewer workplace friendships and perceived less emotional support from their coworkers than whites, regardless of differences in job characteristics. For example, given a black worker and a white worker in similar jobs, the white worker is more likely to have social connections with coworkers and feel more emotionally supported by them than the black worker. We also found that coworker relationships varied by the number of racial minorities in an occupation. Most notably, in occupations with a greater proportion of minority workers, white workers reported fewer friendships.
Next, we found that coworker support was linked to positive emotions for all workers. But, we found that black workers reported more positive and fewer negative emotions in the workplace than whites, despite having fewer workplace friendships. And, while the proportion of minority workers in an occupation did not affect the emotional experiences of black workers, in occupations with a greater proportion of minority workers, whites experienced more negative emotions.
In general, this research suggests that the mere presence of workers from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds does not encourage the formation of interpersonal relationships between members of different groups.