A new study suggests that employees who have more different-race friends outside of work also have a more diverse group of friends among their co-workers and may actually perform better at their jobs.
The study involved 222 people who worked in customer service centers at a large financial institution. These employees worked with customers to fix problems and sell products.
The researchers surveyed the employees and their supervisors.
Employees were also asked to select up to 10 people who were in their network of friends at the company. These people could be within or outside of their immediate work group.
The results showed that people who had more different-race friends outside of work also had a more diverse group of friends among their co-workers, even after taking into account how many different-race colleagues they had in their immediate work group.
The researchers also found that employees who had a racially diverse group of friends were more likely to trust supervisors who also had a diverse friend network.
Co-author Steffanie Wilk of The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business said that trust could be built on deeper similarities than just sharing the same race, adding that they found that there was more trust when they shared similar values and beliefs when it came to the kinds of friends they have.
She said that the most constructive contacts were the ones that were built on friendship and not everyone was equally likely to build friendships with different-race people at work.
Wilk further said that companies should continue to create opportunities for people of different races to collaborate and mingle with each other socially, but they have to let friendships evolve naturally.
The study is published in the journal Organisation Science.