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February 2016
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February 2016
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Mandatory Fun Can Create Workplace Divides
Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Cultural fitness is becoming increasingly important in modern workplaces, but often the emphasis on “fit” comes at the cost of diversity. This is particularly true when it comes to expectations that employees participate in social functions beyond work hours. If it’s an unspoken rule that everyone in a homogeneous, young workforce goes out for drinks on Wednesday night, what happens to the workers who have families and can’t participate? They may feel alienated from the group, and worse, resentments can start to build if these individuals are perceived as loners. This socializing may have initially been conceived to help build stronger teams, but research shows it can often be divisive, particularly when it comes to matters of race and class. In 2013, Organization Science published a study that found people who were racially different from the majority of their co-workers felt obligated to attend work social events, but these individuals rarely felt closer to their colleagues because of it. When an organizational culture hinges on norms usually dictated by race and class, it makes sense that those with different norms feel uncomfortable when required to participate. This isn’t to say socializing shouldn’t occur, but it’s important that these events are chosen with inclusiveness in mind.

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