Making the best of workplace diversity
Both top managers and employees can unlock the potential of diversity in the workplace.
Diversity in the workplace (be it age, ethnicity, education or functional background) creates important challenges for leaders and managers across the world. While organizations hope diversity will increase productivity and innovation, diversity is also known to strain interpersonal trust, integration and undermine well-being. In his research, PhD student Huatian Wang of the Human Performance Management research group at the department of Industrial Engineering and Innovation Sciences has investigated how top managers and employees can make the best of diversity in the workplace. He will defend his thesis on Friday 10 June.
Wang conducted four empirical studies to answer this question. He first focused on the management level and examined how functional diversity in top management teams facilitates the decision-making process, and to what extent diversity changes an organization’s enviromental policies and impact.
Using an archived dataset of publicly listed firms over ten years, the researcher found that functional diversity in top management teams increased the firm’s environmental-friendly performance via making high-quality environmental-friendly strategies.
Moreover, this indirect effect became stronger when firms obtained more external resources, such as governmental subsidies.
Shifting from the management level to the employee level, Wang then investigated how and when employees themselves initiate strategies to navigate a diverse work environment. Using weekly diaries, he found that help-seeking and job crafting actions were two effective strategies to enhance employee work outcomes in a diverse work environment.
In addition, he found that openness to experience and emotional intelligence were two essential personal abilities that can enable employees to initiate proactive strategies more successfully in a diverse work environment. This shows the importance of self-customized, goal-directed strategies and personal abilities when working in a diverse work environment.
In order to train employees in proactive strategies to create and use diversity in their own professional networks, the researcher also developed a self-management tool.
Those who participated in the self-training experiment showed a higher level of network crafting behaviors. This simple self-training also indirectly increased network diversity, work performance, and subjective career success of the participants.
Huatian Wang, Making the best of workplace diversity: From the management level to the employee level. Supervisors: Evangelia Demerouti and Sonja Rispens.
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