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.

Stay up-to-date with the latest research and sign up for email alerts today through the homepage!

Eunseong Cho on Coefficient Alpha

[We’re pleased to welcome Eunseong Cho of Kwangwoon University in the Republic of Korea. Professor Cho recently collaborated with Seonghoon Kim of Chungbuk National University on their paper “Cronbach’s Coefficient Alpha: Well Known but Poorly Understood” from Organizational Research Methods.]

  • What inspired you to be interested in this topic?

It was due to my ignorance in an ordinary sense and my knowledge in a Confucian sense. I never dreamed of writing this kind of methodology paper two years ago because I was not a quant wizard or statistics expert. As a professor who regularly taught research methods in my school, I thought that I knew 07ORM13_Covers.inddcoefficient alpha because I had the commonsense knowledge about it. For example, most textbooks explained that it was first developed by Cronbach and its value was between zero and unity. Two years ago, I accidentally recognized that I had little knowledge of it. Confucius said, knowledge is recognizing that you know what you know, and recognizing that you do not know what you do not know. In a Confucian sense, it was the moment when I got the real knowledge because I got to know the extent of my ignorance.

After writing an initial draft, I invited Prof. Seonghoon Kim to this project. That the author is a layman can have the merit of writing an understandable article in a layman’s eyes. This study also needed an expert author because it should be technically sophisticated in an expert’ eyes to pass the peer review. He was the right person to do the job. He wrote several articles on the related topics, which were published in respected journals such as Psychometrika. He transformed my rough draft into much developed one. I am also grateful to the Associate Editor and the two anonymous ORM reviewers. Their insightful ideas helped us include many value-added components into this study.

  • Were there findings that were surprising to you?

Several things surprised us. First, we were surprised to find that many textbooks on research methods provided incorrect explanation on the coefficient alpha. Second, we were surprised to find that there were few comprehensive and easily comprehensible studies on this topic. A non-expert reader should read dozens of related papers to fully understand this topic. A majority of previous studies required a considerable level of mathematical background knowledge beyond and above what typical social scientists had. Surprise is a good thing in science. A successful study is to find a surprising thing, which is rare by definition. Only what surprised the authors can surprise the readers. We therefore interpreted such surprises as an opportunity for a new study that disproves common misconceptions about coefficient alpha in a comprehensive and accessible manner.

  • How do you see this study influencing future research and/or practice?

This study can influence many studies in many disciplines in many ways. Numerous studies in diverse areas of social sciences report reliability information. Coefficient alpha, usually called “Cronbach’s alpha,” is an automatic and unconditional choice in most studies. This study suggests that many things such as what to call, how to use, and even whether to use it should change. For example, this study suggests that coefficient alpha should be used as a reliability estimator only if the data are unidimensional and tau-equivalent. We do not claim that we are the originators of these ideas. The contribution of this study is to provide them in a more comprehensive and accessible way. Occasionally, people continue to use a more familiar alternative (e.g., the QWERTY keyboard layout) instead of switching to more effective one (e.g., the Dvorak keyboard layout). The key point is to lower the switching cost of typical users. Without such a study, one of the least effective method will continue to enjoy its decades-long monopoly status in the reliability coefficient market.

You can read “Cronbach’s Coefficient Alpha: Well Known but Poorly Understood” from Organizational Research Methods for free by clicking here. Want to know about all the latest research from Organizational Research Methods? Click here to sign up for e-alerts!

s200_eunseong.choEunseong Cho is an associate professor of marketing, College of Business Administration, Kwangwoon University, the Republic of Korea. He received his PhD from Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. His current research interests include exploratory factor analysis, construct validity, gift-giving behavior, and determinants of article influence.

Seonghoon Kim is an associate professor of education, College of Education, Chungbuk National University, the Republic of Korea. He received his PhD from the University of Iowa. His primary research interests include educational measurement and statistics.