Management Diversity
by
Stella M. Nkomo
  • LAST REVIEWED: 19 October 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 January 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846740-0031

Introduction

Diversity is defined as real and perceived differences among individuals or groups and the ways in which these differences affect interactions and relationships as well as the status of different groups in organizations. The types of differences include general ones of gender, race and ethnicity, nationality, and sexual orientation as well as individual differences such as personality. Theoretical and empirical knowledge about diversity draws from several fields, including psychology, social psychology, cognitive psychology, sociology, anthropology, cultural studies, and race and ethnic relations, as well as management. Though the relevant types of diversity may differ from one country to another, the core issue is how to effectively manage the benefits of diversity and mitigate its negative effects as well as preventing the exclusion and devaluation of members of nondominant groups.

Textbooks

Textbooks focusing on diversity have only recently emerged, because of its relative newness as a field of study in management. However, most of the widely used management and organizational behavior textbooks typically include a section or even a chapter devoted to the topic of diversity. Because diversity research and practice emanated from the United States, the largest number of textbooks are by US authors. Thus, the textbooks available are typically context-specific (i.e., they focus on diversity in a particular country). Most of the context-specific textbooks tend to begin with a description of the diversity within the country and workforce trends. A large section of most textbooks is devoted to describing the particular demographic groups within the country and their history and experiences in the workplace. Bell 2012 is an example of this type of textbook as it centers on diversity in the US context. Mor-Barak 2011 offers a more global approach to the subject. In a similar vein, Özbilgin and Tatli 2008 focuses on helping students gain a global understanding of the multilayered nature of diversity, as well as acquiring tools for comparative analysis across contexts and levels. Hannum, et al. 2010 contains theoretical chapters and cases as well as practical exercises. Gatrell and Swan 2008 is a condensed, introductory paperback textbook. Another diversity textbook format contains not only subject matter but also practical exercises. This approach is typified by Carr-Ruffino 2009. More recently, theme-oriented or topic-specific textbooks have been published. Examples of these types are Kirton and Greene 2010 and Özbilgin and Syed 2010.

  • Bell, Myrtle P. Diversity in Organizations. 2d ed. Mason, OH: South-Western College, 2012.

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    Although the book focuses on the demographic composition of the US labor force, one of its strengths is the inclusion of relevant research from the fields of psychology, sociology, management, and other relevant disciplines.

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  • Carr-Ruffino, Norma. Managing Diversity: People Skills for a Multicultural Workplace. 8th ed. Boston: Pearson, 2009.

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    The unique feature of this textbook is the combination of diversity content with practical exercises on topics ranging from cultural differences to discrimination. First published in 1998, it continues to be popular.

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  • Gatrell, Caroline, and Elaine Swan. Gender and Diversity in Management: A Concise Introduction. London: SAGE, 2008.

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    This is a nifty, concise introductory textbook on diversity in management. Its length does not compromise substance.

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  • Hannum, Kelly M., Belinda B. McFeeters, and Lize Booysen. Leading across Differences: Cases and Perspectives. San Francisco: Pfeiffer, 2010.

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    This textbook is well grounded in the latest theoretical developments and offers engaging research-based cases and exercises across various contexts. The theoretical summaries are authored by some of the top scholars in the field of diversity.

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  • Kirton, Gill, and Anne-Marie Greene. The Dynamics of Managing Diversity: A Critical Approach. 3d ed. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2010.

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    This textbook provides a thorough critical treatment of diversity with a specific focus on the UK and European context.

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  • Mor Barak, Michàlle E. Managing Diversity: Toward a Globally Inclusive Workplace. 2d ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2011.

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    This paperback textbook takes a global perspective on diversity issues and offers a thorough exposition of relevant theory. A unique feature is chapters on how organizations can achieve an inclusive workforce.

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  • Özbilgin, Mustafa, and Jawad Syed. Managing Cultural Diversity in Asia: A Research Companion. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2010.

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    Provides an overview of the complex diversity issues in several Asian countries.

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  • Özbilgin, Mustafa, and Ahu Tatli. Global Diversity Management: An Evidence Based Approach. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.

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    Similar to Mor-Barak 2011, the authors offer an in-depth treatment of diversity from a global perspective. The interesting and fresh approach provides students with a rigorous multilayered approach that contextualizes diversity issues while offering assorted tools for further exploration.

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Reference Works

Diversity is a relatively new field of study, and consequently the most up-to-date information is readily found in a wide range of journals. Because the field was initially largely practitioner-driven, a number of practical reference sources appeared quite early and continue to be published. However, a few research-based handbooks, book chapters, and other edited compilations have been published in the past few years that are valuable references for gaining access to current research and thinking about diversity in organizations. One of the first research handbooks to comprehensively describe the field of diversity is Konrad, et al. 2006. A more recent book offering a global perspective is Klarsfeld 2010. Students might also find diversity-focused chapters in a number of handbooks from a broad range of non-management disciplines. For example, Zedeck 2010 includes chapters on diversity. In addition to handbooks, there are numerous important chapters in edited volumes that represent excellent reference resources for the field. These include the seminal chapter Cox and Nkomo 1996 (cited under History and Trends), which is included in the award-winning volume Clegg, et al. 2006. Chatman 2010 (cited under Work Team Diversity) was published in the Academy of Management Annals (see Journals). Readers should also consult discipline-based annual reviews like the Annual Review of Psychology (see Journals). SIOP’s Organizational Frontiers series has published books on diversity-related topics. Although not a handbook per se, because of its comprehensive coverage of diversity from several different contexts and theoretical positions, Özbilgin 2009 is an excellent reference for anyone seeking to grasp the complexity of the field.

  • Clegg, Stewart, Cynthia Hardy, and Walter R. Nord, eds. The SAGE Handbook of Organization Studies. 5th ed. London: SAGE, 2006.

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    The contributions in the handbook are authored by a top team of international scholars in the field of organization studies. The chapters provide retrospective and prospective analyses of current topics by synthesizing existing knowledge. Chapters on diversity can be found in all editions.

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  • Klarsfeld, Alain, ed. International Handbook of Diversity Management at Work: Country Perspectives on Diversity and Equal Treatment. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2010.

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    This handbook refreshingly departs from the idea of diversity as a universal concept. Instead, the volume explores diversity and equal opportunity across a number of countries. Students will gain an international understanding of how national contexts shapes the conceptualization of diversity as well as practices associated with managing diversity.

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  • Konrad, Alison M., Pushkala Prasad, and Judith Pringle. The Handbook of Workplace Diversity. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2006.

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    Comprising twenty-one chapters, this is the first research-based handbook to offer in-depth coverage of diversity topics ranging from psychological perspectives on diversity to homophobia in the workplace. The chapters are authored by some of the leading scholars in the field of diversity. Its extensive set of references alone is a valuable resource for students.

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  • Organizational Frontiers. Homewood, IL: Society for Institutional and Organizational Psychology.

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    The goal of the series is to publish books on cutting-edge research and theory derived from practice in industrial and organizational psychology and related organizational science disciplines. Guest editors for each series draw on the top scholars in the field to ensure that the books are grounded in leading-edge theory. A notable diversity-related book is Discrimination: The Psychological and Organizational Bases by Robert L. Dipboye and Adrienne Colella (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2005).

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  • Özbilgin, Mustafa, ed. Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at Work: A Research Companion. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2009.

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    This interdisciplinary volume contains thirty-one contributions that span the field of diversity, from some of the top diversity scholars in the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and European countries.

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  • Zedeck, Sheldon, ed. APA Handbook of Industrial and Organizational Psychology. 3 vols. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2010.

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    This handbook offers in-depth examination of the types of behavioral and structural issues that industrial and organizational psychologists research. It offers both theoretical and applied perspectives in the presentation of various topics. There are two chapters focusing on aspects of diversity. One chapter examines the literature on disabilities, while the other reviews work-team diversity.

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Journals

Journals are the best sources for leading-edge knowledge and developments in the field of diversity. Because of the scope of issues studied within the field, diversity research has been published in a variety of journals focusing on management, organization behavior, organization studies, human resource management, psychology, sociology, and organization studies. The leading journals in these areas are published by the Academy of Management (AOM), the American Psychological Association (APA), and the American Sociological Association. The Academy of Management Review is the theoretical journal of AOM, while the Academy of Management Journal publishes empirical research articles. The Journal of Applied Psychology is the leading APA journal for diversity issues from the standpoint of psychological theory. The American Sociological Review is the flagship journal of the American Sociological Association. Other high-quality journals that feature diversity research include British Journal of Management and Group and Organization Management. A relatively new journal devoted to diversity in organizations is Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. Finally, students should also be aware of an important journal that targets a specific aspect of diversity: Gender, Work and Organization.

History and Trends

The concept of diversity emerged in the literature on human resource management and organizational behavior as a result of practitioners becoming concerned about the human resource management implications of workforce projections made in Johnston and Packer 1987, which predicted an increasing number of ethnic minorities and women would be entering the US labor force. As a consequence, attention was brought to the need for organizations and managers to manage the increasing diversity of the workforce. The early development of diversity as a concept and practice was mostly practitioner driven (Cox and Nkomo 1996). Thus, the theoretical and empirical development of diversity is a relatively new phenomenon; the concept is rather young compared to other fields in management. Prior to the emergence of the concept of diversity, issues of demographic differences in organizations fell under the rubric of equal opportunity and affirmative action. See Thomas 1990 and Kelly and Dobbin 1998 for excellent discussions of the transition from affirmative action to diversity management. Much of the early theoretical work focused on defining the concept, and Cox 1993 played a seminal role in demarcating diversity theory. Since that time, numerous authors have contributed to the development of the field. Research and theory has moved from concept development, documenting the effects of diverse identifies in organizations, experiences of nondominant groups, and the effects of diversity on performance to a relatively new approach exemplified in Roberson 2006 and Shore, et al. 2011, on inclusion. Recently, several scholars have attempted to broaden the field by examining diversity through critical theories such as post-structuralism, postcolonialism, labor process theory, cultural studies, and institutional theories (see Theories), while others (e.g., Calás, et al. 2010) have stressed the relevance of context in understanding the meaning and effects of diversity in organizations. Excellent reviews of diversity trends over the years have been published, the first being Cox and Nkomo 1996.

Dimensions

Despite its significant development over time, one of the persistent areas of examination has been defining the meaning of the construct of diversity. The debate has centered on the relative significance of what have come to be known as surface-level diversity and deep-level diversity (Harrison, et al. 1998). The former sometimes refers to immutable and observable differences, typically including race, age, sex, nationality and ethnicity. Deep-level diversity has been defined as heterogeneity based on attitudes, beliefs, and values. These differences are not directly observable but are communicated through verbal and nonverbal behavior patterns. Another distinction offered is that deep-level diversity is more mutable and changeable. Harrison and Klein 2007 argues for conceptualizing diversity as separation, variety, and disparity to move the field forward. Yet what is most important about these different dimensions of diversity is understanding their complex interaction in relationship to outcomes. For examples of these complex interactions, see Harrison, et al. 2002 and Williams, et al. 2006.

  • Harrison, David A., and Katherine J. Klein. “What’s the Difference? Diversity Constructs as Separation, Variety, or Disparity in Organizations.” Academy of Management Review 32 (2007): 1199–1228.

    DOI: 10.5465/AMR.2007.26586096Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Conceptualizes three distinctive types of diversity and proposes ways each should be measured and tested.

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  • Harrison, David A., Kenneth H. Price, and Myrtle P. Bell. “Beyond Relational Demography: Time and the Effects of Surface- and Deep-Level Diversity on Work Group Cohesion.” Academy of Management Journal 41 (1998): 96–107.

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    A seminal and highly cited article that introduced the concepts of deep-level diversity and surface-level diversity and their different effects on work group cohesion.

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  • Harrison, David A., Kenneth H. Price, Joanne Gavin, and Anna T. Florey. “Time, Teams and Task Performance: Changing Effects of Surface and Deep-Level Diversity on Group Functioning.” Academy of Management Journal 45 (2002): 1029–1045.

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    Empirical evidence that, over time, team member collaboration weakens the effects of surface-level diversity but strengthens deep-level diversity effects and their impact on team outcomes.

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  • Williams, Kathy A., Gregory B. Northcraft, and Margaret A. Neale. “Surface-Level Diversity and Decision-Making in Groups: When Does Deep-Level Similarity Help?” Group Processes and Intergroup Relations 9 (2006): 467–482.

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    Examines the relative strength of surface-level and deep-level heterogeneity on the performance of groups in a decision-making task.

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Perspectives

Diversity perspectives represent an effort to categorize different approaches that organizations use for the management of diversity. One of the earliest categorization efforts was Cox 1991, in which the author describes three different approaches to diversity in organizations. However, one of the most frequently referenced typologies of diversity perspectives is that of Thomas and Ely 1996. The learning-and-effectiveness paradigm is cited as the only perspective for tapping diversity’s true benefits. Their perspectives have been empirically tested in a number of studies (e.g., Ely and Thomas 2001). A common theme in all diversity perspective literature is the need for organizational approaches that strive for inclusion, whereby the diverse knowledge and skills of all identity groups are effectively utilized to shape strategy, structure, and organizational culture. In recent years, Holvino, et al. 2003 and Shore, et al. 2011 (the latter cited under History and Trends) have proposed inclusion as a new perspective for managing diversity in organizations.

  • Cox, Taylor, Jr. “The Multicultural Organization.” Academy of Management Executive 5 (1991): 34–47.

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    Cox offers a diversity continuum of three organizational approaches to diversity. Monolithic organizations that are homogenous with few minority employees tend to use formal policy alone to incorporate diversity. Plural organizations are relatively more heterogeneous through affirmative action programs and other interventions, while multicultural organizations value diversity and transform the structure and culture to fully integrate nondominant groups.

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  • Ely, Robin, and David A. Thomas. “Cultural Diversity at Work: The Effects of Diversity Perspectives on Work Group Processes and Outcomes.” Administrative Science Quarterly 46 (2001): 229–273.

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    This article develops theory about the conditions under which cultural diversity enhances or detracts from work group functioning. Their research demonstrated how the perspective on diversity a task performed by a work group influenced how individuals expressed and managed tensions related to diversity.

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  • Holvino, Evangelina, Bernard M. Ferdman, and Deborah Merrill-Sands. “Creating and Sustaining Diversity and Inclusion in Organizations: Strategies and Approaches.” In The Psychology and Management of Workplace Diversity. Edited by Margaret S. Stockdale and Faye J. Crosby, 245–276. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2003.

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    This insightful chapter provides theory-based strategies organizations can use to sustain inclusive diversity.

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  • Thomas, David A., and Robin Ely. “Making Differences Matter: A New Paradigm for Managing Diversity.” Harvard Business Review (September–October 1996): 79–90.

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    The authors describe three different diversity perspectives found in their research: the discrimination-and-fairness paradigm, the access-and-legitimacy paradigm, and the learning-and-effectiveness paradigm. In describing these empirically derived paradigms, the authors also offer also practical examples of their use in the organizations they studied.

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Theories

Diversity scholars have drawn from an eclectic set of theories, largely from the fields of psychology, social psychology, cognitive psychology, social psychology, sociology, and gender studies. The most prominent are Social Identity Theory and Self-Categorization Theories, Relational Demography Theory, Intersectionality Theory, Faultline Theory, Aversive Racism Theory, and Critical Diversity Theory.

Social Identity Theory and Self-Categorization Theories

Social identity theory and self-categorization theories have been the most dominant frameworks used to explain why diversity may have negative effects for members of nondominant identity groups and consequently, performance. Social identity theory was developed by the European social psychologist Henry Tajfel to explain how people think about themselves as members of social groups and their behavior in intergroup contexts. Self-categorization theory, which is viewed as an extension of social identity theory, has been used to understand the processes by which individuals come to favor the identity groups to which they belong. The tendency for individuals to align themselves with the groups to which they belong can foster in-group favorability and out-group negative bias. Ashforth and Mael 1989, a foundational piece, specifically demonstrated the application of social identity theory within organizational contexts. Hogg and Terry 2000 expanded this foundational work to detail how social categorization and prototype-based depersonalization actually produce social identity dynamics. Jehn, et al. 1999 is an important article that uses social identity theory to examine the effects of deep-level diversity (e.g., values) on work-group conflict and performance. Mehra and Kilduff 1998 offers a good early example of the application of social identity theory to the organizational experiences of underrepresented groups. More recently, Tran, et al. 2011 examines how social identities influence employees’ appraisal of diversity management efforts. Chrobot-Mason, et al. 2009 uses social identity theory to identify the triggers of workplace conflict among historically polarized social identity groups. Chatman and Spataro 2005 demonstrates the importance of not relying solely on self-categorization theory in diversity research. Rosette, et al. 2008 uses categorization theory to demonstrate racial bias in leader categorization.

  • Ashforth, Blake, and F. Mael. “Social Identity Theory and Organizations.” Academy of Management Review 14 (1989): 20–39.

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    A seminal work introducing the concept of social identity to the study of organizations.

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  • Chatman, Jennifer A., and Sandra E. Spataro. “Using Self-Categorization Theory to Understand Relational Demography-Based Variations in People’s Responsiveness to Organization Culture.” Academy of Management Journal 48 (2005): 321–331.

    DOI: 10.5465/AMJ.2005.16928415Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An empirical study that combines the interactive effects of social categorization processes, demographic similarity, and organization culture to explain variations in cooperative behavior in work groups.

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  • Chrobot-Mason, Donna, Marian N. Ruderman, Todd J. Weber, and Chris Ernst. “The Challenge of Leading on Unstable Ground: Triggers that Activate Social Identity Faultlines.” Human Relations 62 (2009): 1763–1794.

    DOI: 10.1177/0018726709346376Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Offers an explicit identification and explanation of the different triggers of workplace conflict among historically polarized social identity groups in organizations.

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  • Hogg, Michael A., and Deborah J. Terry. “Social Identity and Self-Categorization Processes in Organizational Contexts.” Academy of Management Review 25 (2000): 121–140.

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    A seminal article detailing the processes of social identity and self-categorization and their effects on social behavior in organizations.

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  • Jehn, Karen A., Gregory B. Northcraft, and Margaret Neale. “Why Differences Make a Difference: A Field Study of Diversity, Conflict and Performance in Work Groups.” Administrative Science Quarterly 44 (1999): 741–763.

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    This highly cited article examines the interrelationship among social category diversity, task complexity, and task interdependence and finds significant effects on work-group conflict and performance.

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  • Mehra, Ajay, Martin Kilduff, and Daniel J. Brass. “At the Margins: A Distinctiveness Approach to the Social Identity and Social Networks of Underrepresented Groups.” Academy of Management Journal 41 (1998): 441–452.

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    An important study demonstrating how the relative representation of a group in a social context influences the likelihood that individuals will use group membership as a basis for shared identity and social interaction.

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  • Rosette, Ashleigh Shelby, Geoffrey J. Leonardelli, and Katherine W. Phillips. “The White Standard: Racial Bias in Leader Categorization.” Journal of Applied Psychology 93 (2008): 758–777.

    DOI: 10.1037/0021-9010.93.4.758Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An empirical laboratory study that demonstrates a significant relationship between race and leadership categorization.

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  • Tran, Veronique, Patricia Garcia-Prieto, and Susan C. Schneider. “The Role of Social Identity, Appraisal, and Emotion in Determining Responses to Diversity Management.” Human Relations 64.2 (2011): 161–176.

    DOI: 10.1177/0018726710377930Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Using social identity theory, the authors explain employee behavioral and emotional responses to diversity management interventions.

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Relational Demography Theory

Relational demography has been perhaps the second most popular theory used to explain the effects of demographic diversity in the workplace. The theory proposes that individuals compare their own demographic identity with those of others in their work group to determine whether they are dissimilar or similar. The level of similarity will in turn affect the individual’s attitudes and work behavior, as empirically demonstrated in Riordan and Shore 1997. While Wagner, et al. 1984 is credited with originating the concept, Tsui, et al. 1992 developed its application to work unit diversity. The Euclidean Distance Measure is the most frequently cited measure for operationalizing relational demography. A comprehensive review, Williams and O’Reilly 1998, is a good place to start for an excellent summary of forty years of research. Tsui and Gutek 1999 provides an overview of the concept.

  • Riordan, Christine M., and Lynn McFarlane Shore. “Demographic Diversity and Employee Attitudes: An Empirical Examination of Relational Demography within Work Units.” Journal of Applied Psychology 82 (1997): 342–358.

    DOI: 10.1037/0021-9010.82.3.342Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    One of the earliest examinations of how race and ethnic similarity affect attitudes in work groups.

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  • Tsui, Anne S., Terri D. Egan, and Charles A. O’Reilly III. “Being Different: Relational Demography and Organizational Attachment.” Administrative Science Quarterly 37 (1992): 549–579.

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    This publication is recognized as one of the first empirical studies of the effects of relational demography in organizations. Their interesting results found an inverse relationship between increasing work-unit diversity and the level of psychological attachment. Nonsymmetrical results for whites and women challenged the assumption that heterogeneity effects are experienced only by minorities.

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  • Tsui, Anne S., and Barbara A. Gutek. Demographic Differences in Organizations: Current Research and Future Directions. Lanham, MD: Lexington, 1999.

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    This well-written book provides a comprehensive answer to the question: How do demographic differences between and among individuals in organizations influence their attitudes toward one another and toward their work groups and organization?

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  • Wagner, W. G., Jeffrey J. Pfeffer, and Charles A. O’Reilly III. “Organizational Demography and Turnover in Top-Management Groups.” Administrative Science Quarterly 29 (1984): 74–92.

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    This seminal study of turnover in top management teams introduced the importance of demographic similarity to the functioning of work groups.

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  • Williams, Katherine Y., and Charles A. O’Reilly III. “Demography and Diversity in Organizations: A Review of 40 Years of Research.” Research in Organization Behavior 20 (1998): 77–140.

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    A comprehensive, systematic review of the literature on organizational demography and diversity as it applies to work groups and organizations. It also summarizes the effects of diversity in organizations.

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Intersectionality Theory

Intersectionality theory posits that individuals have multiple social identities that should be considered. Until the introduction of intersectionality theory, most diversity research focused on a single category of diversity. For thorough discussions of intersectionality theory, see McCall 2005 and the more recent Holvino 2010. Diversity research using an intersectional theoretical framework typically focuses on how these multiple social identities (e.g., race, gender, and class) intersect to construct the reality and experiences of individuals and groups in organizations. Bell, et al. 1993 introduced the importance of race and gender when studying the experiences of women in management. Other good recent examples of the intersectional perspective are Edmondson Bell and Nkomo 2001; Essers and Benschop 2007; Blake-Beard, et al. 2011; Sanchez-Hucles and Davis 2010; and Boogaard and Roggeband 2009. More recently, Calás, et al. 2010 has drawn attention to the transnational dimensions of intersectionality.

Faultline Theory

Faultline theory builds upon intersectionality theory to explain how multiple identities can trigger potential dysfunctional conflict among subgroups in organizations. Group faultline theory was developed in Lau and Murnighan 1998, which defined faultlines as a hypothetical division of work-group members into two or more subgroups on the basis of one or more characteristics. These characteristics can be based on primary diversity dimensions like race, ethnicity, gender, and age, or on secondary dimensions like personality, organizational position, or competencies. Using an analogy to the role of faultlines in earthquakes, the authors argue that while subgroup faultlines may remain dormant, an external trigger can instigate conflict and tension between subgroups. For empirical examples of diversity research using faultline theory, see Lau and Murnighan 2005; Chrobot-Mason, et al. 2009 (cited in Social Identity Theory and Self-Categorization Theories); and van Knippenberg, et al. 2011.

Aversive Racism Theory

Alternatively known as “modern racism,” aversive racism theory was introduced by the social psychologists Samuel Gaertner and John Dovidio (Gaertner and Dovidio 1986). Aversive or modern racism assumes that racial discrimination has not disappeared, but rather it is being replaced by less overt and direct forms. Essed 1991 introduced the concept of “everyday racism,” which also demonstrates the processes of modern forms of racism. Brief, et al. 2000 examines the effects of aversive racism on the selection of Black and White job applicants, using a laboratory study.

  • Brief, Arthur P., Joerg Dietz, Robin Cohen, S. Douglas Pugh, and Joel B. Vaslow. “Just Doing Business: Modern Racism and Obedience to Authority as Explanations for Employment Discrimination.” Organization Behavior and Human Decision Processes 81 (2000): 72–97.

    DOI: 10.1006/obhd.1999.2867Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Provides support for modern racism in the workplace but also extends it in their finding that justification of modern racist behavior need not be nonracial as posited by modern racism theory.

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  • Essed, Philomena. Understanding Everyday Racism: An Interdisciplinary Theory. Newbury Park, CA: SAGE, 1991.

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    One of the most thorough comparative explanations of the micro-processes of subtle racism.

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  • Gaertner, Samuel L., and John F. Dovidio. “The Aversive Form of Racism.” In Prejudice, Discrimination, and Racism: Theory and Research. Edited by John F. Dovidio and Samuel L. Gaertner, 61–89. Orlando, FL: Academic Press, 1986.

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    A classic chapter on the meaning and implications of aversive racism.

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Critical Diversity Theory

Critical diversity theory emerged in the late 1990s and is skeptical of the emancipatory possibility of mainstream approaches to diversity. It does not constitute a single theoretical frame but draws from critical management perspectives. At its core, scholars who employ a critical diversity theoretical perspective challenge the essentialist assumptions of categories of diversity and view the shift from equal employment opportunity and anti-discrimination to diversity as a means of obscuring and maintaining unequal power relations in organizations. Some of the earliest critical diversity work can be found in Litvin 1997, with significant contributions in Prasad, et al. 1997 and Jones, et al. 2000. More recently, Noon 2007 and Hoobler 2005 critique the business case as instrumentalist and not in the interests of promoting equality. Scully and Blake-Beard 2006 point to the omission of the significance of class in discussions of diversity in organizations. Jones, et al. 2000 points to the failure of scholars to recognize the importance of context in the conceptualization of diversity. For a comprehensive review of critical diversity research, see Zanoni, et al. 2010. See also Healy, et al. 2011 for a critical discussion of contemporary challenges for achieving equality.

Race and Ethnicity

There is a very large body of research on racial and ethnic diversity in organizations. One of the earliest articles on its dynamics is Alderfer, et al. 1980. Drawing heavily from intergroup relations theory from the seminal work of social psychologists like Thomas Pettigrew (Pettigrew 1998), Alderfer and colleagues extended the ideas specifically to organizations and to effects of race relations in organizations. Generally, however, until the late 1990s, research on race and ethnicity in this context was rare. A seminal article, Nkomo 1992, pointed to the general invisibility of its presence in the literature of organization behavior and management. Research in the field can be grouped under three themes: experiences of racial and ethnicity minorities, antecedents and outcomes of race and ethnicity, and identity construction. Research on the experiences of racial and ethnic minorities was historically focused on blacks in the United States. While contemporary studies can still be found on the experiences of African Americans, this work has been extended to include other US racial and ethnic groups, as well as those in other countries. Illustrative significant research of this strand for Hispanic Americans includes DelCampo and Blancero 2008, and for Asian Americans, Kawahara and van Kirk 2010. See also Kenny and Briner 2007 and Özbilgin and Syed 2010 (the latter cited under Textbooks). Another large body of research focuses on antecedents and outcomes of race and ethnicity. Ibarra 1995 explains how race influences network relationships in organizations, while Ospina and Foldy 2009 provides insights into race, ethnicity, and leadership. A very recent body of knowledge is emerging on racial/ethnic identity construction in the workplace.

Gender

Gender diversity research initially began with a focus on documenting discrimination against women, particularly in terms of upward mobility in male-dominated management positions. Early seminal works include Schein 1973 and the classic book Kanter 1977, which introduced the concept of tokenism and its effects on women in corporations. Research on gender diversity in management has proliferated over the past thirty years along many lines of inquiry. While the initial body of research focused on sex differences between men and women, works like Calás and Smircich 1996, Acker 1990, and Fletcher 1999 expanded the study of gender diversity by introducing feminist perspectives on the social construction of gender as well as the gendered nature of organizations. The recognition that research in gender diversity should study both men and women in organizations was pioneered by David Collinson and Jeff Hearn (Collinson and Hearn 1994) in their work on masculinities. Another strand of work on gender diversity has concentrated on understanding work and family issues in the workplace. Kossek and Lambert 2005 provides a comprehensive overview of the work and family literature. Outstanding collections or literature reviews that assist greatly in navigating the vast amount of scholarship on gender diversity in organizations include critical summaries (e.g., Ely and Padavic 2007). A promising area of study is emerging on transnational perspectives on gender diversity, which recognizes that gender relations and gender practices transcend their point of interest in the United States. A good introduction to transnational gender diversity can be found in a special issue of Gender, Work and Society (Calás, et al. 2010, cited under Intersectionality Theory).

Sexual Orientation

Relative to the literature on race and gender diversity, the body of knowledge about sexual orientation is rather sparse. Studies of experiences of discrimination and of the effects of disclosure on the affective and material outcomes for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) employees and heterosexism in organizations have dominated the existing literature. Frank and Badgett 2007 offers an international perspective on sexual orientation discrimination. There are a number of important articles focusing on the costs and impact of disclosure on GLBT employees. Ragins 2001, an oft-cited article, found that disclosure of sexual orientation at work was related to discrimination and fewer promotions. A few studies have attempted to unveil the ways in which organizations have embedded heterosexism. Gregory 2011 demonstrates how homophobia is narratively constructed in organization settings. More recent literature has emerged that goes beyond the traditional areas of study. Research can be found on effective organizational policies and strategies for the inclusion of GLBT employees, as well as the benefits of sexual orientation diversity for organizations. For example, Bell, et al. 2011 proposes strategies for inclusion of GLBT personnel. Creed, et al. 2002 and Chuang, et al. 2011 examine the factors that influence organizational adoption of antidiscrimination policies and same-sex health benefits. Colgan and McKearney 2011 discuss inclusion practices in organizations. Roberts 2011 is an article on sexual identity construction.

  • Bell, Myrtle P., Mustafa F. Özbilgin, T. Alexandra Beauregard, and Olca Sürgevil. “Voice, Silence and Diversity in 21st Century Organizations: Strategies for Inclusion of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Employees.” Human Resource Management 50 (2011): 131–146.

    DOI: 10.1002/hrm.20401Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Identifies the negative consequences of silencing of GLBT employees and strategies for allowing them to include their voices in organizations.

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  • Chuang, You-Ta, Robin Church, and Ron Ophir. “Taking Sides: The Interactive Influences of Institutional Mechanisms on the Adoption of Same-Sex Partner Health Benefits by Fortune 500 Corporations, 1990–2003.” Organization Science 22 (2011): 190–209.

    DOI: 10.1287/orsc.1090.0521Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An excellent longitudinal, empirical study of the factors that influence the decision by Fortune 500 organizations to adopt same-sex partner health benefits.

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  • Colgan, Fiona, and Adian McKearney. “Creating Inclusive Organisations? A Consideration of LGB Workers’ Perceptions and Experiences in the Private Sector.” In Gower Handbook of Discrimination at Work. Edited by Tessa Wright and Hazel Conley, 97–110. London: Gower, 2011.

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    Reports on the inclusion practices of sixteen organizations with a reputation for LGB-friendly policies.

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  • Creed, W. E. Douglas, Maureen A. Scully, and John R. Austin. “Clothes Make the Person? The Tailoring of Legitimating Accounts and the Social Construction of Identity.” Organization Science 13 (2002): 475–496.

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    A sophisticated analysis of how the combination of legitimating accounts and social identity influences policies precluding discrimination against GLBT individuals.

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  • Frank, Jefferson, and M. V. Lee Badgett. Sexual Orientation Discrimination: An International Perspective. London: Routledge, 2007.

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    A compilation of different facets and effects of sexual orientation discrimination, written by an interdisciplinary group of international scholars.

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  • Gregory, Michele Rene. “The Faggot Clause: The Embodiment of Homophobia in the Corporate Locker Room.” Equality, Diversity and Inclusion 30 (2011): 651–667.

    DOI: 10.1108/02610151111183180Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A revealing ethnographic examination of homophobia narratives in corporate settings.

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  • Ragins, Belle Rose. “Pink Triangles: Antecedents and Consequences of Perceived Workplace Discrimination against Gay and Lesbian Employees.” Journal of Applied Psychology 86 (2001): 1244–1261.

    DOI: 10.1037/0021-9010.86.6.1244Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A frequently cited article on the relationship between perceived sexual orientation discrimination, negative work attitudes, and upward mobility of gay and lesbian employees.

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  • Roberts, Simon. “Exploring How Gay Men Manage Their Social Identities in the Workplace: The Internal and External Dimensions of Identity.” Equality, Diversity and Inclusion 30 (2011): 668–685.

    DOI: 10.1108/02610151111183199Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An intriguing examination of the identity work gay men engage in to negotiate, resist, and reconcile their identities in the workplace.

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Physical Ability

Research focused on employees with disabilities in the workplace increased in response to the passage of the Americans with Disability Act in 1990. Similar legislation in other countries has also contributed to the growth in the research on disabilities in the workplace. While this is a smaller body of research than that on other categories of diversity, it has primarily centered on the discrimination experiences of disabled employees and the attitudes individuals and organizations hold toward these employees. A seminal article, Stone and Colella 1996, developed a model of the factors affecting the treatment of persons with disabilities in organizations. Stigmatization has been a popular theory used by scholars to explain coworkers’ reactions to employees with disabilities (e.g., McLaughlin, et al. 2004). Stone-Romero, et al. 2006 developed a model to demonstrate the differences in how persons with disabilities versus persons without disabilities construe a work task. Recently, Colella and Bruyère 2011 provided a road map for future directions in research on diversity.

  • Colella, Adrienne J., and Susanne M. Bruyère. “Disability and Employment: New Directions for Industrial and Organizational Psychology.” In APA Handbook of Industrial and Organization Psychology. Vol. 1, Building and Developing the Organization. Edited by Sheldon Zedeck, 473–503. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2011.

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    Provides a comprehensive review of the available literature and research on disability in the workplace, as well as suggestions for future research.

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  • McLaughlin, Mary E., Myrtle P. Bell, and Donna Y. Stringer. “Stigma and Acceptance of Persons with Disabilities.” Group and Organization Management 29 (2004): 302–333.

    DOI: 10.1177/1059601103257410Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Found that stigma largely mediated the relationship between disability type and acceptance.

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  • Stone, Diana L., and Adrienne J. Colella. “A Model of the Factors Affecting the Treatment of Disabled Individuals in Organizations.” Academy of Management Review 21 (1996): 351–401.

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    A seminal theoretical article that identified the key factors affecting the treatment of employees with disabilities in the workplace.

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  • Stone-Romero, Eugene F., Dianna L. Stone, and K. Lukaszewski. “The Influence of Disability on Role-Taking in Organizations.” In The Handbook of Workplace Diversity. Edited by Alison Konrad, Pushkala Prasad, and Judith Pringle, 401–430. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2006.

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    An interesting discussion of the work-related scripts of persons with disabilities compared to those of persons without disabilities.

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Age

Attention to age diversity has lagged in respect to other dimensions. However, the aging of the baby boomer generation has spurred interest in understanding age diversity and its implications for organizations. The research on age diversity falls into two primary areas: age discrimination, and intergenerational differences in the workplace. In terms of the latter, most of the research documents age discrimination and its effects (e.g., Kunze, et al. 2011). Comprehensive literature reviews on age bias and discrimination are offered in Shore and Goldberg 2005 and Finkelstein and Farrell 2007. The literature on intergenerational diversity focuses on demonstrating how worldviews and workplace preferences differ among employees born in different historical and social periods. Recent examples include Cogin 2011 and Joshi, et al. 2011.

Work Team

Work team diversity is defined as the degree to which there are demographic and individual differences among group members; this has become a significant area of study within the diversity literature. Jackson, et al. 1995 laid the foundation for the landscape of diversity in work teams in a framework for understanding its effects. Milliken and Martins 1996 underscored the observation that the composition of organizational groups affects outcomes such as turnover and performance through its impact on affective, cognitive, and symbolic processes. Pelled, et al. 1999 explored work-group diversity and conflict; Earley and Mosakowski 2000 examined the effects of diversity on transnational team functioning. Since these publications, the literature on work team diversity has grown substantially and constitutes a large part of the extant knowledge on diversity. Although it is clear that work team diversity may affect group process and performance positively as well as negatively, much is still unclear about the effects of diversity and the circumstances under which different effects emerge. Recently, however, three important reviews have tried to summarize the cumulative body of knowledge on work team diversity as well as to propose ways for making sense of this complex phenomenon. Chatman 2010 argues that reaping the benefits of work team diversity may depend on the strength and content of the norms it adopts. However, the very diversity of a work team may hamper the formation of strong norms. Van Knippenberg and Schippers 2007 examines twenty-five years of research on work group diversity and concludes that there is a need for more empirical research on the underlying processes that are assumed to predict its effects. Joshi and Ron 2009 performed a meta-analysis of published research on work team diversity and the importance of context. In addition to offering a thorough, recent review of the field, Jackson and Joshi 2010 calls for multilevel theoretical perspectives and methodologies to shed light on the complexity of diversity in work teams.

Nationality

The rather large and expansive volume of research on national culture diversity focuses on understanding how cultural differences among nations affect organizations, ranging from effects on doing business to the appropriateness of management and leadership practices. Early research critiqued the assumption of the universality of management knowledge and practices. The seminal research was conducted by Gert Hofstede, with the most recent scholarly account published in Hofstede 2001. The trajectory of national cultural diversity scholarship has followed a path of first delineating models of how national cultures differ. Examples include the frameworks in Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner 1998, and more recently, House, et al. 2004. There are also a few important critiques of the various frameworks, including Alion 2008. Other significant works (e.g., Adler 2008) offer theoretical and practical information about understanding and responding to national culture differences. Micro-level examination of the effects of national culture in the workplace can be found in publications like Smith and Best 2009, a four-volume set on cross-cultural psychology. More recently, scholars have turned their attention to the importance of managers and leaders being culturally intelligent. A thorough theoretical review of the concept of cultural diversity is Earley and Ang 2003. Ang and Van Dyne 2008 is a handbook on cultural intelligence.

Organization Performance

Diversity research in recent years has increasingly focused on the effects of diversity and various diversity interventions on several dimensions of organization performance. The value-in-diversity business case was first articulated in Cox and Blake 1991, a much-cited article. However, Richard 2000 reports one of the first empirical studies of the link between racial diversity and firm performance. Over the years, the results have generally been mixed. Kochan, et al. 2003 describes one of the first longitudinal field studies that demonstrated the complexities associated with establishing links between diversity and performance. Empirical research of this nature has continued, with significant contributions including Kalev, et al. 2006 on the effects of diversity interventions on the degree of firm diversity; Herring 2009 on the positive effects of gender and race diversity on sales revenue, number of customers, and profits; Nielsen and Huse 2010 on gender diversity and board performance; and Curtis and Dreachslin 2008 on diversity training effectiveness.

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