Relational demography from a discrimination perspective : the moderating role of work group status
Schaffer, Bryan Stuart
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Relational demography refers to the study of how comparative perceptions of diversity in the workplace affect employees’ attitudes, behaviors, and other work-related experiences. Employees who are demographically different from their work group members may feel uncomfortable because of the recognition that their social identity characteristics are not the same as those with whom they interact on a daily basis (Riordan & Shore, 1997). This heightened awareness of dissimilarity may lead to unfavorable outcomes, such as negative perceptions regarding the work environment. This dissertation uses outcomes related to perceived discrimination and exclusionary treatment. The theory behind relational demography suggests that such variables would be immediate outcomes of dissimilarity. The set of dependent variables used in this study fall under the three broader domains of 1) perceived discrimination (global and group), 2) justice (procedural and distributive), and 3) social support (perceived group support and team-member exchange). It was expected that higher levels of dissimilarity would be related to higher perceptions that each of these factors is being withheld from the employee. This study also introduces a contextual variable, perceived work group status (PSGA) that is thought to delineate some specific conditions under which the effects of dissimilarity would be the strongest. It was suggested that work group status would have a moderating effect on the relationships between demographic dissimilarity and perceived discrimination and exclusionary treatment. Specifically, employees in low PSGA work groups were expected to follow the basic premises of relational demography, in that dissimilarity would lead to higher levels of perceived discrimination and exclusionary treatment. However, for employees in high PSGA work groups, status was expected to mitigate or buffer this relationship. Findings revealed that demographic dissimilarity, particularly race and education dissimilarity had significant relationships with the dependent variables. Results also showed that PSGA had a moderating effect for gender dissimilarity, and had an unexpected mediating effect for education and tenure dissimilarity. Finally, the dependent variables that had work group or team orientations (i.e., group perceived discrimination, team-member exchange, and perceived group support) showed the strongest relationships with the independent variables. Practical implications stemming from these results, as well as suggestions for future research, are provided.