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

  • Winner of the 2019 AERA Division A (Administration) Outstanding Dissertation Award


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 (American Journal of Sociology)

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 Outcomes in Racially Diverse Workplaces (With Tiffany D. Johnson)

 Abstract:Who benefits from diversity in the workplace? Prior studies suggest that the benefits and challenges associated with being demographically different from others in the workplace vary across demographic groups. This paper proposes a key process behind such “nonsymmetry” by showing how differential amounts of culture shock are experienced by workers of different backgrounds in client-service organizations. We explore potential mechanisms connecting racial dissimilarity and negative workplace experiences using interview data from 91 teachers. Employees of most racial background and numerical majority/minority combinations described the experience of culture shock—including surprise, confusion, and frustration—resulting from interracial experiences with coworkers. However, our analysis demonstrates the different ways in which different demographic groups cope with and adjust to emotionally challenging aspects of their social environment for which they were unprepared. These findings build on research in organizational demography by applying insights from culture shock theory to explain how the experience and consequences of racial dissimilarity vary across demographic groups.

Other project in progress from the dissertation:

Resources and Constraints in Spaces outside the Technical Core: The Case of Hallway Management for Teachers (With Beth A. Bechky and Anne-Laure Fayard)