When compared to others, New Jersey is considered to be one of the most diverse states in the U.S., but do those that live and work in the Garden State believe this to be true?

Creatas, ThinkStock

New Jersey-based strategic communications firm Taft and Partners teamed up with Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) to find out by conducting a poll that asked New Jersey workers a number of questions about their interactions with different races in the workplace and at home.

The results, which were released today, revealed that there was a lot of interaction between people of different races while people were at their jobs, but that dropped significantly when New Jerseyans were away from the workplace.

The "New Jersey State of Diversity Survey" revealed that 90 percent of workers in New Jersey think their employers value diversity and encourage a respectful workplace.

“New Jersey’s a very diverse state and we see that playing out in the workplace. We’ve got a full 83 percent of workers in New Jersey saying that they have daily interactions with people of a different race," said Ted Deutsch, president of Taft.

And while workers think their employers value diversity, only 47 percent reported having had any from of training that focuses on the value of cultural awareness and diversity.

The survey also asked respondents if they’d heard things at work that might be considered offensive to certain groups and they answered “very often” or “occasionally” in the following categories:

  • Racial and ethnic minorities: 19 percent
  • Muslims: 19 percent
  • Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT): 16 percent
  • Women: 13 percent
  • Other religious groups: 10 percent
  • Jews: 9 percent
  • People with disabilities: 9 percent
  • Hindus: 7 percent

“MLK Day is a perfect time to think about these issues. Dr. King’s legacy isn’t just about social justice and service. It’s also about people living and working together in a respectful way without regard to race, religion or any differences. The good news is these numbers show that New Jersey’s workplaces are doing a good job of carrying on that legacy,” Deutsch said.

Seventy-percent of New Jersey employers impose some sort of consequences when they hear offensive comments, and most workers reported they knew there would be consequences for offensive speech at their job.  Only 9 percent said they had no clue if there would be consequences.

“Overall, the survey results show that New Jersey working adults encounter diversity quite regularly, though their employers have not universally embraced training and there may still be insensitive conversations happening in the workplace,” said Krista Jenkins, director of PublicMind and professor of political science at FDU, in an emailed statement.

If employers don’t embrace a respectful environment, they’re not only exposing themselves to unhappy and unsatisfied workers, but they put themselves at a major disadvantage in terms of recruiting top talent, according to Deutsch.

Interactions with people of diverse backgrounds drops significantly once workers remove themselves from the workplace environment. In fact, only 59 percent of those surveyed report daily interaction with someone of a different race outside of work. Inside of work, that number was 83 percent.

The respondent's race plays a big part in those numbers. Fifty percent of whites indicated they interact daily outside their workplace with someone of a different race, compared to 73 percent for non-whites.

The survey is based on a Jan. 4-10 poll of 571 working adults in New Jersey, designed with and conducted by FDU’s PublicMind.

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