We all live with the objective of being happy; our lives are all different and yet the same.
- Anne Frank
Differences challenge assumptions.
- Anne Wilson Schaef
On a Tuesday afternoon, as you are getting ready to go to lunch, you receive an e-mail from your human resources (HR) manager about the need to hire a new project manager, and there is a $500 bonus for referring a friend who successfully joins the company. Immediately, you e-mail your friend Daniel, because you know he would be great for the job. Daniel is eventually hired for the position, and a few months later a new e-mail goes out asking for friend recommendations for a new position. You and Daniel both recommend someone, and eventually that person gets hired. Over the next year, hiring notices are not advertised externally as the organization has had good luck with this hiring practice. Seems like a great way to recruit new people, doesn’t it? It can be, but it also can be a detriment to the diversity and multiculturalism of the workplace. How, you might wonder?
While not true across the board, people have a tendency to spend time with people who are like themselves, in race, income level, and other aspects of diversity such as sexual orientation. In fact, according to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and a study published in the American Journal of Sociology, it is much more likely that someone will name a person in their own race as a friend than someone of a different race. Likewise, even from a young age, people tend to choose friends who are of the same race. As a result, when you recommend Daniel for a position, it is highly likely that Daniel is similar, from a diversity perspective, to you. Then, when Daniel recommends someone for a job, it is highly likely that he, too, is recommending someone with similar characteristics as you both. This obviously creates a lack of multicultural diversity in the workplace, which can mean lost profits for companies. In addition, it is important for us to be able to function effectively in a multicultural work environment, as multicultural understanding improves our ability to engage in positive human relations with others.
James Moody, “Race, School Integration, and Friendship Segregation in America,” American Journal of Sociology 107, no. 3 (2001): 679–719.