Nonsymmetrical Effects of Racial Diversity on Organizational Minority Members: Evidence from the Teaching Profession


In my dissertation, I examine the formation and consequences of coworker support in cross-race and same-race interactions. I conducted a year-long, multi-site workplace ethnography across five schools with varying demographic compositions. This involved shadowing and interviewing more than 100 teachers, attending work events such as meetings and formal and informal teacher gatherings, and interviewing 18 school personnel.  I compare how the demographic composition of faculty – primarily by teachers’ race, but also by their certification, age, and experience backgrounds –impacts processes of coworker support, and in turn, has consequences on teachers’ on-the-job attainment of human capital, resources for doing the work, and outcomes of job satisfaction and retention. Below are abstracts of two papers coming out of the dissertation project.

How Organizational Minorities Form and Use Social Ties: Evidence from Teachers in Majority-White and Majority-Black Schools

Abstract: This paper draws on 11 months of multi-site ethnographic fieldwork and 103 interviews to investigate how teachers in school faculty of varying racial compositions form and use their social ties to secure professional, political, and emotional resources at work. Findings show that in general, white teachers in the numerical minority in their schools secured all resource types through their same-race ties, while black teachers in the numerical minority secured primarily emotional resources from theirs. Given these observed differences, I show how the form and use of the two minority groups’ social ties stem from distinctive organizational practices. In turn, the tie differences can account for differences in social integration and resource-access in the organization. The data allow for comparisons to patterns among majority groups.

Culture Shock at Work: Explaining Nonsymmetrical Effects of Racial Diversity (With Tiffany D. Johnson)

 Abstract: Who benefits from diversity in the workplace? Prior studies suggest that whites do not, while the effect is neutral or positive for nonwhites. This paper extends research on such “nonsymmetry.” In Study 1, we use unique survey data of 323 high school teachers’ job satisfaction, intent to stay, and psychological commitment to investigate whether and how diversity effects differ for white and black teachers. A spline regression analysis reveals no significant effects of faculty racial composition for white teachers net of controls, while effects for black teachers are significant and follow a nonlinear pattern. In Study 2, we triangulate survey findings with 90 interviews from the same sample to explore a proposed mechanism for nonsymmetry that emerged strongly from the qualitative data: culture shock. These findings contribute to research in nonsymmetry theory, and develop culture shock theory to apply to management settings by illustrating why and how tipping points of minority/majority status in an organization may affect one demographic group, but not another. We discuss implications for organizations and future research.

Other working paper from the dissertation:

“Corridors of Frustration: Comparing the Socialization and Boundary-Drawing Functions of Venting, Evaluation, and Consultation in Public versus Private Workspaces.”