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Image: Luigi Mengato via Flickr (CC-BY-SA 2.0)

Image: Luigi Mengato via Flickr (CC-BY-SA 2.0)

Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at the Wharton School, has an op-ed in the New York Times that describes the decline in workplace friendships. Grant notes that compared to workers in other countries, Americans are much less likely to claim close friends at work or to see the workplace as a social space where close friendships are built. He refers to several important sociological studies in analyzing why this is so, noting that the nature of work has changed so that workers are more likely to switch jobs frequently and thus may not feel a close sense of association with colleagues.

Grant references classical sociologist Max Weber’s theory that Calvinism shaped the perception of work as a place where money is made and emotions are inappropriate. Importantly, however, Grant notes that ignoring the workplace as a site where friendships can blossom may rob us of important opportunities. Jobs can become more pleasant and workers more effective when they work with friends.

This is an interesting piece that has important implications for a work world that has changed significantly, and one where issues of diversity are of paramount importance. Sociologists have documented the myriad challenges that people of color encounter at work—stereotyping, tokenization, difficulty finding mentors, closed socialnetworks, discrimination, and others.

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It’s been a rough summer for academics. Just in the last few months, two black women sociologists have become the subjects of national news stories when comments they wrote on twitter drew the ire of conservatives who branded them racists and demanded that the institutions where they worked fire them. First Saida Grundy, then Zandria Robinson drew media attention when conservative websites critiqued their twitter comments on the confederate flag, white college men, and other subjects related to issues of race and inequality. In Grundy’s case, she issued a statement saying that she wished she’d chosen her words more carefully, and the furor essentially died down. In Robinson’s case, after public speculation that the university fired her, she wrote a lengthy blog post desribing the details of her long association with her former employer and ultimate decision to leave for another university.

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A recent New York Times article discusses research showing that pressures to work long hours and a culture of overwork are reinforcing gender inequality.

The article quotes Robin Ely, professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, who states that “24/7 work cultures lock gender inequality in place, because the work-family balance problem is recognized as primarily a woman’s problem.” The study was coauthored by sociologists Irene Padavic of Florida State University and Erin Reid of Boston University.

The article also quotes sociologist Mary Blair-Loy, of University of California, San Diego, and refers to her research on gender identities and cultural expectations regarding gender and work performance.