Office holiday parties aren’t as good for diversity as you might think

Posted December 11th, 2013 by
Category: Living consequences Tags: , ,

Office holiday partyDiversity experts often recommend that employers foster a variety of behaviors in racially diverse workplaces aimed at bringing employees closer together. These techniques can include hosting social gatherings and encouraging the informal sharing of personal information, and are intended to overcome racial and sociocultural barriers and to strengthen interoffice relationships.

At this time of year, the office holiday party is the best example of this sort of practice aimed, at part, at addressing issues of diversity in a positive, proactive way.

Yet research from the Columbia Business School indicates that social interactions at work, rather than promoting racial harmony and cooperation, are ineffective at reducing discomfort and racial tension in the workplace, and can further isolate employees based on racial difference.

This research doesn’t mean that employers should avoid hosting holiday parties and encouraging other forms of socializing, but it does suggest that these events can be problematic, and that attention is better paid to an organization’s attitude towards issues of diversity and towards ensuring positive experiences for all employees, while working and while socializing with co-workers.

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