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University of Nebraska–Lincoln

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Supervisor Integrity Empowers Employees to Advocate for Diversity in Problematic Climates

Journal(s): Journal of Applied Psychology
Published: December 11, 2023
Author(s): Brett Neely, Timothy Kundro and Cindy Muir (Zapata)
General Description of Research:
Fostering inclusion in the workplace can be challenging, but we find that the key might be having supervisors who act with integrity. In three complementary studies, we find that employees hesitate to advocate for diversity due to not feeling empowered. Our research reveals that when supervisors act with integrity, employees feel more empowered to step up and champion diversity, especially in problematic climates.

Research Abstract:

Supervisors struggle to encourage employees to engage in diversity advocacy—key behaviors that help promote more equitable workplaces. Research hints that one reason for this struggle may be that employees lack the empowerment to engage in such behaviors. Drawing on perspectives that conceptualize diversity advocacy as a moral and virtuous behavior, we integrate research on leadership and empowerment to suggest that supervisor integrity can empower observers to engage in diversity advocacy. In exploring boundary conditions, we draw on performance models to counterintuitively suggest that this effect is strongest when employees perceive a negative diversity climate, as employees see the greatest need for change in these contexts. We test our theory in three complementary studies: A field sample with employees, a preregistered experimental vignette study, and an additional preregistered immersive experiment with a behavioral dependent variable. Our results contribute to theory on diversity, empowerment, and organizational climate. Additionally, we make an empirical contribution by developing and validating a four-item diversity advocacy scale.

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