Multidimensionality: A Cross-Disciplinary Review and Integration

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Xing Liu, Jieun Park, Christina Hymer, and Sherry M. B. Thatcher of the University of South Carolina. They recently published an article in the Journal of Management entitled “Multidimensionality: A Cross-Disciplinary Review and Integration,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they reveal the inspiration for conducting this research:]

What motivated you to pursue this research?

Guided by a mutual interest in diversity, we wanted to provide a perspective that captured the increasingly complex view of diversity in today’s society. Views about diversity are no longer limited to differences on one attribute or dimension, such as race or gender, but take into consideration bundles of differences, such as the differences between being a white male, a black male, a black female, and a white female. Our goal in reviewing the literature on individuals’ multidimensionality was to integrate diverse points of view and provide a theoretical framework for advancing research within this exciting and increasingly relevant area. Our review highlighted that there are three main areas where multidimensionality research has been conducted: intersectionality (how bundles of demographic attributes create emergent social identities), faultlines (subgroup divisions generated by the alignment of bundles of attributes across group members), and multiplexity (the overlap of individuals’ multiple relations with others). In our review, we develop a holistic understanding of multidimensionality and illuminate linkages across multidimensionality literatures to pave the way for scholars to advance theoretical and empirical perspectives on this topic. Researchers and managers interested in understanding the roles that multidimensional diversity play in organizations will be interested in this review.

Were there any specific external events –political, social, or economic –that influenced your decision to pursue this research?

This is a unique time in the United States. Over the past two decades, we have witnessed a biracial American president, an increased dialogue around acceptance of LBGTQ individuals, and discussions at the highest levels of corporations on how to ensure that diversity initiatives are inclusive. Researchers and practitioners alike are increasingly recognizing that employees often seek to bring their whole selves to work. The line between work and non-work selves is becoming more blurred in today’s organizational environment. As a result, effective management of employees’ “whole selves” is one way that employers can reap the benefits of their employees’ multidimensionality, such as tapping into their employees’ diverse experiences and social relations. Our review highlights that employees should embrace their own multidimensionality as well as that of their coworkers, subordinates, and managers.

In what ways is your research innovative, and how do you think it will impact the field?

Our review is innovative in that rather than reviewing a set of studies that investigate multidimensionality from a single viewpoint, we explore three literatures that have approached multidimensionality from very different angles. Thus, our review provides a novel perspective to viewing the multidimensional diversity of today’s workforce. We highlight that individuals are not only multidimensional with respect to visible or skill-based attributes, but also multidimensional in their social relations with others. Using this perspective, we can better understand how employees may experience their work environment due to the multiple identifications and categorizations they use to define themselves. Our holistic perspective of multidimensionality is vital for organizations to effectively manage the multidimensional diversity of the workforce and provides a practical framework to help organizations benefit from their employees’ multidimensional diversity.

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