Despite working in more routine and less autonomous jobs, having fewer close friends at work, and feeling less supported by their coworkers, blacks report significantly more positive emotions in the workplace than whites, according to a new study in the December issue of Social Psychology Quarterly.
“We were surprised by this,” said lead author Melissa M. Sloan, an assistant professor of interdisciplinary social sciences and sociology at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee. “Based on the history of discrimination against African Americans in the workplace, we thought blacks would experience more negative emotions at work than whites. As it turned out, the opposite was true.”
Titled, “Counting on Coworkers: Race, Social Support, and Emotional Experiences on the Job,” the study considered more than 1,300 state government employees in Tennessee.
Sloan and her co-authors Ranae J. Evenson Newhouse, an assistant professor of sociology at Tennessee State University, and Ashley B. Thompson, an assistant professor of sociology at Lynchburg College, also found that the higher the percentage of minorities in a workplace, the more close friends blacks had and the fewer whites had.
In workplaces with a low percentage of minority employees—13 percent or less—black workers said they considered 39 percent of their coworkers to be close friends versus 61 percent for white workers. However, in workplaces with a high percentage of minority employees—35 percent or more—black workers said they considered about 42 percent of their coworkers to be close friends versus 46 percent for white workers.