[We’re pleased to welcome authors Beth G. Chung of San Diego State University, Karen H. Ehrhart of the University of Central Florida, Lynn M. Shore of Colorado State University, Amy E. Randel of San Diego State University, Michelle A. Dean of San Diego State University, and Uma Kedharnath of the University of Wisconsin–Whitewater. They recently published an article in Group and Organization Management entitled “Work Group Inclusion: Test of a Scale and Model” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they recount the motivations and challenges of this research:]
We decided to pursue this research because of the momentum the concept of inclusion has gained in both the academic and business world. Part of this momentum was generated by a conceptual paper (Shore et al., 2011) we wrote that clearly defined the concept of inclusion in the literature. According to our conceptual paper, inclusion is feeling like you belong and are accepted for your uniqueness in a group. The conceptual paper also forwarded a theoretical model to be tested. The current paper does just that. We test a measure of inclusion that contains both uniqueness and belongingness and we test a complete model of the predictors and outcomes of work group inclusion.
One of the most challenging aspects of doing work on inclusion and diversity is that companies are sometimes weary of providing data regarding these topics. Although the information provided by our research can only help organizations improve, the tendency is to shy away from research that might reveal unbecoming information. However, with persistence and tenacity, we were able to collect the data and validate a measure that is greatly needed to practically assess inclusion in organizations. It is a short measure (10-items) that can help an organization assess whether their employees feel inclusion within their workgroups. We are able to show that these feelings of inclusion have important consequences such as improved performance, creativity, and increased helping behavior. We believe that this article will be useful to both academics and practitioners alike.
In my prior career as a human resource management practitioner, I worked in a mid-sized corporation where executives were credibly accused of sexual harassment, and it was left to me to address the complaints. I thought that, given the mutual respect I had with the men accused and our shared interest in protecting the organization from lawsuits, I could convince them to discontinue any offensive behavior. Much to my dismay, my efforts resulted in a deepening of biased attitudes and an apparent escalation of harassment that placed the business at increased risk, and ultimately had a negative impact on the careers of the targets and on my own career. I was floored. This experience left me to wonder, “What I could have said or have done differently to produce a better result?”
Although this happened more than ten years ago, today we find countless examples in the media and other recent events where people are called out for their biases and treatment of others. While such behavior may justly earn public condemnation, treating biased individuals this way can be divisive, and provoke defensiveness and shame. As this paper shows, this can increase resistance to change and lessen the chance of a positive outcome.
One possible solution might be taking a softer approach to dealing with biased individuals that is more caring of the needs of those whose behavior we hope to change. This approach is further applicable in situations where the biased individual is in a position of power. The findings were counterintuitive for me personally, and have left me with many more questions that I will continue to investigate.