Diversity in terms of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and disability is a hot topic, both within and outside of academia. Modern societies have become increasingly diverse and fluid and organizations are increasingly aware of the importance of effectively managing diversity to enhance innovation and employee wellbeing. Research has noted both the challenges and opportunities of organizational diversity, suggesting the complexity of the processes involved and a clear need for systematic study on the topic. In this line of work, I examine the psychological obstacles to effective diversity management and how these may be overcome.

How Perceived (In)Visible Dissimilarity Relates to Feelings of Inclusion at Work

We investigated how the perception of being dissimilar to others at work relates to employees’ felt inclusion, distinguishing between surface-level and deep-level dissimilarity. In addition, we tested the indirect relationships between surface-level and deep-level dissimilarity and job satisfaction, work-related stress, turnover intentions, career commitment and motivation to grow, through social inclusion. Furthermore, we tested the moderating role of a climate for inclusion in these relationships. We collected survey data from 891 employees of a public service organization. An ANOVA showed that there was a negative relationship between deep-level dissimilarity and felt inclusion, while surface-level dissimilarity was not related to felt inclusion. Furthermore, a moderated mediation analysis showed a negative indirect relationship between deep-level dissimilarity and job satisfaction through felt inclusion, and positive indirect relationships between deep-level dissimilarity and work-related stress and turnover intentions through felt inclusion. Surface-level dissimilarity was positively related to career commitment and motivation to grow. Interestingly, while the moderation analysis showed that a positive climate for inclusion buffered the negative relationship between deep-level dissimilarity and felt inclusion, it also positively related to feelings of inclusion among employees who did not perceive themselves as dissimilar to colleagues. This research significantly improves our understanding of how perceived dissimilarity affects employees by distinguishing between surface-level and deep-level dissimilarity and by demonstrating the importance of a climate for inclusion.

Joint influences of system justification and self-interest on diversity policy support

As organizations are increasingly diverse, effective diversity management is imperative. However, resistance among both majority and minority group members stands in the way of policies’ successful implementation and execution. This research examines the joint influences of system- and self-interest on people’s support for diversity initiatives. In Study 1, we assessed Dutch students’ (N=202) system-serving attitudes, their subjective and objective self-interest, and their endorsement of the university’s broad diversity stance as well as specific initiatives (such as introducing gender-neutral toilets). As hypothesized, participants higher on system justification were less supportive of diversity and inclusion in general and less accepting of the specific initiatives. These effects were obtained regardless of whether participants personally benefited from the policies (measured through self-report and social category membership), but perceived self-interest also had an independent effect; those who felt they would benefit from the policies were more likely to support them. These findings were complemented by a content analysis of participants’ spontaneously generated arguments showing that resistance often went hand in hand with the denial or downplaying of inequality and claims of positive discrimination. To further examine the simultaneous influence of system- and self-interested motivations, Study 2 assessed Americans’ (N=207) endorsement of diversity initiatives that were either liberal or conservative in nature. System justification negatively predicted support for liberal diversity policies, but positively predicted support for a conservative diversity policy. This effect disappeared when adjusting for participants’ political orientation. Together, these findings advance our understanding of the conflicting motivations that underlie diversity attitudes and policy support.

In preparation: Van der Toorn, J. (2018). Resisting change: The joint influences of system justification and self-interest on diversity policy support. Manuscript in preparation.

Also see: Ellemers, N., Şahin, O., Jansen, W. S., & Van der Toorn, J. (in press). Naar effectief diversiteitsbeleid: Het bouwen van bruggen tussen wetenschap en praktijk. Gedrag & Organisatie.