Laura Morgan Roberts

Where Does DEI go from Here?


 

Positive Links Speaker Series

Where Does DEI go from Here?

Laura Morgan Roberts
Associate Professor of Business Administration, University of Virginia

November 16, 2023


About the talk

Join us in conversation with one of the world’s most renowned voices bringing a positive organizational scholarship lens to topics of diversity, equity, and inclusion at work. Dr. Laura Morgan Roberts will discuss the headwinds slowing diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives amid an uncertain economy and efforts to dismantle diversity programs through court rulings and legislation. Laura emphasizes that leaders will benefit from a focus on an overarching goal, that of creating four freedoms that are central to creating conditions necessary for all workers to flourish. Laura will share how to foster these four freedoms at work – the freedom to be, the freedom to become, the freedom to fade, and the freedom to fail – and how doing so can make organizations more welcoming and safer for everyone. Laura will share practical and powerful approaches, including encouraging individual allyship, implementing strengths-based development programs, and enabling flexible work, and how these approaches can more evenly distribute these four freedoms, reducing rates of disengagement and burnout, especially for those in marginalized groups.



See all Positive Links events

Where Does DEI go from Here?


Laura Morgan Roberts
Associate Professor of Business Administration, University of Virginia


About the talk

Join us in conversation with one of the world’s most renowned voices bringing a positive organizational scholarship lens to topics of diversity, equity, and inclusion at work. Dr. Laura Morgan Roberts will discuss the headwinds slowing diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives amid an uncertain economy and efforts to dismantle diversity programs through court rulings and legislation. Laura emphasizes that leaders will benefit from a focus on an overarching goal, that of creating four freedoms that are central to creating conditions necessary for all workers to flourish. Laura will share how to foster these four freedoms at work – the freedom to be, the freedom to become, the freedom to fade, and the freedom to fail – and how doing so can make organizations more welcoming and safer for everyone. Laura will share practical and powerful approaches, including encouraging individual allyship, implementing strengths-based development programs, and enabling flexible work, and how these approaches can more evenly distribute these four freedoms, reducing rates of disengagement and burnout, especially for those in marginalized groups.

Student Watch Party: Watch this streamed session together with other students for an in-person community experience followed by a structured discussion about how to put insights from Positive Links into practice. Registration for the Student Watch Party is included as an option when registering for this session of Positive Links.

To jump-start learning for this Positive Links session, read the Harvard Business Review article “Where Does DEI go from Here?” authored by Laura Morgan Roberts.


About Roberts

Laura Morgan Roberts, PhD, is the founder of The Alignment Quest Enterprise LLC and Frank M. Sands Sr. Associate Professor of Business Administration (with tenure) at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. With family roots in Gary, Indiana and Washington, DC, Laura earned a BA in Psychology (highest distinction & Phi Beta Kappa) from the University of Virginia, and an MA and PhD in Organizational Psychology from the University of Michigan. She has served on the faculties of Harvard Business School, Antioch University, and Georgetown University. She has also taught courses in organizational behavior, psychology, negotiations, group dynamics, diversity, leadership, and career development as a faculty affiliate of the University of Michigan, the Wharton School of Finance, Tuck, Georgia State University, UCLA Anderson, Simmons School of Management, and AVT (Copenhagen). 

Laura Morgan Roberts researches the science of maximizing human potential in diverse organizations and communities. Her work on diversity, authenticity, and leadership development has been recognized by Thinkers50 (Talent Management Top 10 Thought Leader); LinkedIn (Top 10 Voice in Equity); ThinkList #Amplify; and the Academy of Management Organizational Behavior Award for Societal Impact. Laura has published research articles, teaching cases, and practitioner-oriented tools for strengths-based development, workplace equity, and inclusion. Her co-authored article, Toward a Racially Just Workplace, was featured among the top 12 articles in Harvard Business Review’s 100-year history. She has also co-edited three books: Race, Work and Leadership (2019 Axiom Business Book Award winner); Positive Organizing in a Global Society; and Exploring Positive Identities and Organizations. A frequent contributor to Harvard Business Review and the Academy of Management Review, she is regularly quoted in global media outlets. Laura serves on the Boards of The Partnership, Inc., and the Descendants of Enslaved Communities at the University of Virginia. 

Stay connected with Laura:

LinkedIn profile
Personal website
Twitter profile


Host

Monica Worline, Faculty Director, Center for Positive Organizations


Positive Links Speaker Series Sponsors

The Center for Positive Organizations thanks Sanger Leadership Center, Tauber Institute for Global Operations, and Samuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies for their support of the 2023-24 Positive Links Speaker Series.


Positive Links Series Promotional Partners

Additionally, we thank Ann Arbor SPARK and the Managerial and Organizational Cognition (MOC) Division of the Academy of Management for their Positive Links Speaker Series promotional partnerships.




Laura Morgan Roberts discusses how Black women can balance self-care, pressures to lead DEI efforts


POISED (Positive Organizational Inclusion Scholarship for Equity and Diversity)
Research Spotlight

Laura Morgan Roberts

Center for Positive Organizations (CPO) faculty affiliate Laura Morgan Roberts participates in the Harvard Business Review video discussion “Black Women on the Challenges and Opportunities of the Past 18 Months.”

Roberts joins Ellen Bailey, Vice President for Diversity and Culture at Harvard Business Publishing, and career coach Octavia Goredema to discuss how Black women can balance self-care with the pressures of helping to find solutions for racial injustice and inequality at their organizations.

“Some of the most unsettling aspects of the past 18 months were that we were really thrown into a frenzied state whereby the stakes were so high,” Roberts says. “On the one hand, I’m looking at folks on Instagram, and other places, talking about all the bread that they’re baking and what kinds of quarantine projects they’re doing. I’m like, ‘What’s going on.’ I’m in a can’t stop, won’t stop phase here. People in organizations, CEOs, boards of directors now wanted to have conversations about race and racism and spinning those off into other conversations about exclusion, injustice, belongingness, equity.”

Roberts encourages leaders to alleviate the pressures on Black women by addressing the root cause of their exhaustion, setting them up for success with tangible resources, valuing their contributions more fairly, and rewarding their contributions in DEI roles.

Roberts is a Professor of Practice at the University of Virginia. Her book, Race, Work and Leadership: New Perspectives on the Black Experience, was published by the Harvard Business Review Press.


POISED

POISED — Positive Organizational Inclusion Scholarship for Equity and Diversity — is a new microcommunity that investigates diversity, equity, and inclusion through the lens of Positive Organizational Scholarship — paying special attention to positive states, qualities, relationships, and processes (such as dynamics that contribute to human strength, resilience, and flourishing) in organizations to surface new insights.

POISED is tackling vital questions such as how underrepresented minorities develop the capacity to thrive in the workplace rather than being derailed by discrimination, how leaders and allies partner in DEI efforts to help underrepresented minorities thrive, and how organizations that have stumbled in their efforts to support DEI can learn, grow, and flourish from their experiences. All are invited to learn more and join.


This article may require registration or a paid subscription for full access.

Courtney McCluney


Scholar presenter:

Courtney McCluney, Cornell University

Seed generators:

Laura Morgan Roberts, University of Virginia
Patricia Faison Hewlin, McGill University

Topic:

From Calling Out to Calling In: A Virtuous Response to Racial Injustice

Talk description:

My research investigates how organizational practices, norms, and policies perpetuate marginalization, and how marginalized individuals and organizations, in turn, navigate and resist marginalization. I use multiple methods and bring critical social theories in conversation with positive, strength-based approaches to explore these facets of organizational life. The aim of my research is to expand diversity, equity, and inclusion in organizations by dismantling systemic inequality and cultivating new equitable societies where everyone may thrive.


Research is the heart of Positive Organizational Scholarship (POS), and we want to make sure that we support each other in developing high quality research. To that end, we created the Adderley Positive Research Incubator for sharing and encouraging POS-related research ideas that are at various stages of development.

Learn more about the Adderley Positive Research Incubator here and direct questions about individual sessions to cpo-events@umich.edu.

McCluney, Roberts explain why women of color aren’t eager to return to in-person work


Photo: Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels
Courtney McCluney

Courtney McCluney

A New York Times account is required to access this article.

Center for Positive Organizations faculty affiliates Courtney McCluney and Laura Morgan Roberts are quoted in The New York Times article “Return to Office? Some Women of Color Aren’t Ready.”

The article explores why many black and brown women aren’t eager to return to the office — and the microaggressions, code-switching, and stress that come with it — after working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. The article also offers suggestions for how employers can create more inclusive policies for returning to the office.

“This was the first year that I haven’t had my hair commented on and touched without permission in my professional life,” McCluney says. “I actually like not having to go into the office and be constantly reminded that I’m the only Black woman there.”

Laura Morgan Roberts

Roberts adds that women of color tend to have a more negative experience in the workplace than white women and are more likely to feel disconnected and disengaged.

“They’ve historically worked in environments that have not been physically safe for them, much less psychologically or emotionally safe,” Roberts says.

McCluney and Roberts urge leaders to familiarize themselves with the challenges black and brown women face before creating back-to-the-office policies. McCluney also suggests giving women of color a choice about whether to return to the office or continue working remotely.

McCluney is an Assistant Professor at the Cornell University ILR School.

Roberts is a Professor of Practice at the University of Virginia. Her book, Race, Work and Leadership: New Perspectives on the Black Experience, was published by the Harvard Business Review Press.

Awkward race conversations have potential to strengthen relationships, CPO researchers write


Photo: LinkedIn Sales Navigator on Unsplash
POISED (Positive Organizational Inclusion Scholarship for Equity and Diversity)
Research Spotlight

Sandra Cha

Sandra Cha, Stephanie Creary, and Laura Morgan Roberts recently co-authored a paper titled “Fumbling in relationships across difference: The potential spiraling effects of a single racial identity reference at work” in Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion.

The paper explores the potential relationship impacts when a white employee makes a comment, question, or joke about a Black colleague’s race at work. These identity references, even when well-intentioned rather than malicious, can be upsetting for Black employees and have the potential to derail relationship building across difference. But, under certain conditions, they also have the potential to generate deeper understanding and connection, the researchers write.

The paper identifies structural closeness — defined as physical proximity with frequent and diverse interactions— as a common precursor to the occurrence of identify references. Co-workers who experience such structural closeness are more likely to feel familiar enough with each other to communicate openly about the subject of race, the researchers write.

When an identity reference is made, there are three factors that can influence how a Black person responds and, in turn, the co-workers’ relationship trajectory, according to the paper:

  • Whether the Black employee has a history of experiencing hurt as a result of their race through negative stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination
  • Whether the Black employee has experienced their race as a dominant identity in a different context, such as a Nigerian man who grew up in Nigeria and now works in the United States
  • Whether the Black employee feels psychological closeness with their White colleague

Stephanie Creary

“We chose to center the experiences of Black workers during identity references. We do so because Black employees, who are most often the targets rather than initiators of identity references, can respond to a White colleague’s identity reference in very different ways, and the way in which they respond strongly impacts the relationship,” the researchers write.

“This observation goes against dominant framing in the public discourse of Black people as disempowered in the workplace. Our critical perspective emphasizes greater agency for Black people,” the researchers write. “At the same, we acknowledge that Black employees can face an arduous choice in deciding how to respond to a White colleague’s identity reference. Responding in a way that meets the needs of both relational partners is delicate and effortful, and it imposes a disproportionate ‘relational tax’ on Black employees.”

The paper suggests there are three ways Black workers can respond to an identity reference: disaffirming, going along or mindful correcting.

Laura Morgan Roberts

“Of the three potential responses, we propose that mindful correcting is the most likely to spiral into increased relational closeness over time,” the authors write. “This article offers insight into how identity references, which may initially be experienced negatively by Black workers as a type of microaggression, can ultimately lead to generative experiences and promote higher levels of positivity in relationships across difference when viewed as a well-intended relational fumble. Mindful correcting can help to strengthen relationships through the deeper learning that occurs for both parties,” the researchers write.

The paper also offers practical tips for how white employees and organizational leaders can develop high-quality relationships across difference, a key skill as the U.S. workforce becomes more diverse.

Cha is an Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior in the Brandeis International Business School. She also serves on the steering committee of POISED: Positive Organizational Inclusion Scholarship for Equity and Diversity.

Creary is a Center for Positive Organizations Research Advisory Board member and an Assistant Professor of Management at the University of Pennsylvania.

Roberts is a Center for Positive Organizations faculty affiliate and Professor of Practice at the University of Virginia.


POISED

POISED — Positive Organizational Inclusion Scholarship for Equity and Diversity — is a new microcommunity that investigates diversity, equity, and inclusion through the lens of Positive Organizational Scholarship — paying special attention to positive states, qualities, relationships, and processes (such as dynamics that contribute to human strength, resilience, and flourishing) in organizations to surface new insights.

POISED is tackling vital questions such as how underrepresented minorities develop the capacity to thrive in the workplace rather than being derailed by discrimination, how leaders and allies partner in DEI efforts to help underrepresented minorities thrive, and how organizations that have stumbled in their efforts to support DEI can learn, grow, and flourish from their experiences. All are invited to learn more and join.

Diversity, equity, inclusion scholars reflect on progress, peril of 2020


Image by Blackillustrations.com

Editor’s note: This article was written as a reflection on the “Race, Justice, and Equity in the Workplace and Beyond: A Call to Action” panel event held in June. Interviews were conducted with presenters in late 2020, before a predominately white mob stormed the United States Capitol during the presidential election certification vote. The rioters were lightly policed, in contrast to Black Lives Matter protesters over the summer. President Donald Trump subsequently was impeached for the second time on a charge of inciting insurrection for his role in the incident. The deadly attack came as Georgia made history, electing its first Black and Jewish representatives, in a hotly contested Senate runoff election. The dueling events underscore the push-pull nature of progress that the presenters highlight below.


As a new year — with a new presidential administration — begins, we have a collective opportunity to capitalize on the lessons of 2020 and make a fresh start on issues of racial equity. The question is: Will we?

The brutal, public killing of George Floyd at the hands of police in May stunned observers and touched off a summer of protests, while the COVID-19 pandemic exposed health disparities between whites and people of color. The life-and-death consequences of systemic racism became impossible to ignore and inspired many white people to confront their ignorance and shame around race for the first time.

Suddenly, diversity, equity, and inclusion experts — many of whom had struggled for years to find support for their research on the policies and practices that could help dismantle systemic racism — were in high demand.

In response to these events, Center for Positive Organizations Research Advisory Board members Stephanie Creary and Brianna Caza, in collaboration with the Managerial and Organizational Cognition (MOC) Division of the Academy of Management, convened a panel discussion in June called “Race, Justice, and Equity in the Workplace and Beyond: A Call to Action.”

Just two weeks after Floyd’s killing, the normally objective presenters struggled to separate their personal pain from their academic insights. Along with the science, they expressed grief, rage, frustration, sadness, and a wary hope that the events of 2020 could spark change for individuals, businesses, governments, and academic institutions.

“[W]e’ve been here before, many, many, many times. And the solutions that people are suggesting aren’t really that novel. The difference is that people were moved emotionally. More people and different people were moved emotionally in a way they had never been moved before.” — Stephanie Creary

“Yes, we’ve been here before, many, many, many times. And the solutions that people are suggesting aren’t really that novel,” panel co-curator Stephanie Creary, an assistant professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania, said during her reflection interview. “The difference is that people were moved emotionally. More people and different people were moved emotionally in a way they had never been moved before. So, it begs the question: If we really think about our own vulnerabilities and our own emotional experiences around witnessing other people’s pain and suffering, and we act in a way that is compassionate — even when it’s not about ourselves or we don’t see ourselves as being the person at the point of suffering — how much can we actually change?”

Here, we look back at how the experts addressed that question during the panel and gather their thoughts looking into the new year.

A moment or a movement?

The first of three dialogs during the June panel was titled “Why (Not) Now? Understanding the Urgency of the Moment.” Participants discussed whether the current attention to issues of race, justice, and equity is different and how to harness it to create lasting change.

Martin N. Davidson — who serves as senior associate dean and global chief diversity officer and the Johnson and Higgins Professor of Business Administration at the University of Virginia — kicked off the conversation.

He acknowledged two key differences about the summer of 2020. Technology allowed more people to witness incidents of police brutality and the pandemic removed distractions that normally would allow them to move on without taking action. But Davidson expressed skepticism people would stay engaged beyond the moment, noting that flare-ups of racial unrest are cyclical in the United States, happening almost every decade for the at least the past 100 years.

Looking toward 2021, Davidson said he was “actually on an upswing of hopefulness.” He cited President-elect Joe Biden’s staffing of leadership roles with women and people of color, and his own observations of corporations spurred by the moment into doing long-term work around equity issues as reasons to be encouraged.

“I think it’ll be incremental work, incremental change. I’m just happy that more is happening now.” — Martin Davidson

“But it’s not going to solve the fundamental dynamics that created not only the tragic reality for people that’s happening on the streets, and that’s happening for people in organizations — the microaggressions, the institutional bias, things like that,” Davidson said. “This one moment isn’t going to wipe all that away. I think it’ll be incremental work, incremental change. I’m just happy that more is happening now.”

Robin J. Ely — the Diane Doerge Wilson Professor of Business Administration at Harvard University — echoed Davidson’s sentiments.

“I think things are going to be better than they were in the last few years,” she said. “But is this moment of last summer really going to spur significant change in our culture and in organizations? The jury is still out on that. I’m a little worried that the news cycle is over and companies are not feeling the pressure.”

Ely said the events of 2020 provided the pain point many organizations needed to shift from talk to action. But lasting progress on race and gender issues won’t be achieved unless leaders continue to question themselves, have difficult conversations, be emotionally vulnerable, and create a psychologically safe environment where employees can do the same.

“I think we need to figure out how to make this discussable. If we cannot talk about it, we cannot change it.” — Robin Ely

“I think we need to figure out how to make this discussable,” Ely said. “If we cannot talk about it, we cannot change it.”

During the panel, Laura Morgan Roberts — professor of practice at the University of Virginia — provided historical context for the events of 2020. She said the moment exposed the roots of a system formed hundreds of years ago to protect property ownership, at a time when Black bodies were viewed as property that could be used to create more capital. To this day, the same system continues to pit those in power against those in subservient roles.

“[O]ne of the things that we saw when we began to define essential workers [during the COVID pandemic] was this system [rooted in the ownership of Black bodies as property to create more capital] and the way that it disproportionately exposed poor people of color, especially Black people.” — Laura Morgan Roberts

“Within the context of COVID …, one of the things that we saw when we began to define essential workers was this system and the way that it disproportionately exposed poor people of color, especially Black people,” Roberts said. “The choices that administrators made about whose lives should be protected and the lengths we should go to protect people’s lives also called into question how invested people are in maintaining this system.”

Colorblindness equals silence

The second dialog, “The Upsides and Downsides of Seeing Race,” tackled the impacts of colorblindness within the racist system and how it prevents uncomfortable conversations that could stimulate change.

“Colorblindness is an incredibly convenient, particularly for white people, way to sidestep the issue of race altogether.” — Evan Apfelbaum

“Colorblindness is an incredibly convenient, particularly for white people, way to sidestep the issue of race altogether,” Evan Apfelbaum, an associate professor of management and organizations and research director of the HR Policy Institute at Boston University, said during the panel. “We’re talking about a generation of parents who have shushed their kids when they innocuously point out someone’s skin color in public, adults claiming that they don’t see race or don’t think about race.”

Sonia Kang — the Canada Research Chair in Identity, Diversity, and Inclusion and associate professor in organizational behavior and human resource management at the University of Toronto — said colorblindness communicates that racial differences are something to be ashamed of, rather than celebrated. In the workplace, this can prompt employees to hide their authentic racial identities to fit into the historically white system.

Apfelbaum and Kang suggested that a more constructive approach, in the workforce and for parents, is to be honest with yourself, listen to others, and have uncomfortable conversations about race.

“Thinking about all of the things that we talked about on the panel, it’s really disheartening,” Kang said. “Sometimes you feel like, it’s hard to believe. You feel kind of helpless, like what can really be done? At the same time, I do remain hopeful that we’re paying attention to these things right now and it’s really becoming part of day-to-day conversations of people who maybe had not thought about these issues before.”

Kang said she was encouraged that President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris used their victory speeches to reignite the conversation around inequality.

“I think people have this idea that you can’t say that inequality exists without also saying that I’m a bad person for being a part of this system that created inequality. I feel like what we need is to be able to say, look: Two things are true … inequality can exist and you can still be a good person working to fight it.” — Sonia Kang

“That kind of signal around the norms and expectations for society hopefully will bring people back to this message of understanding that inequality exists,” Kang said. “I think people have this idea that you can’t say that inequality exists without also saying that I’m a bad person for being a part of this system that created inequality. I feel like what we need is to be able to say, look: Two things are true … inequality can exist and you can still be a good person working to fight it.”

Race, gender in the workplace

The third dialog — “Sisters or Stepsisters? Relationships Between White Women and Women of Color, Including Black Women” — explored the complicated racial and gender dynamics of workplace advancement.

Tina Opie, an associate professor of management at Babson College, and Shannon Schuyler, chief purpose and inclusion officer at PwC US, crushed the notion that gender is an all-encompassing identity that puts Black and white women on a level playing field. They examined how women of all backgrounds can acknowledge their differences and unite to promote collective advancement in the workplace.

During the panel, Schuyler cautioned that, without introspection and self-correction, white women who have broken the glass ceiling run the risk of mirroring the unconsciously biased behaviors of white men, who often promote people who look like themselves and unintentionally exclude others who don’t.

The key to changing the narrative begins with soul searching, Opie said. White women must learn about their own racial identification, reflect on their attitudes toward people with different heritages, and confront their shame and ignorance around race so they can have honest conversations about it. Opie developed the Shared Sisterhood framework to help women work through this introspection and learn to connect across racioethnic and other differences.

“I’m not Casper, I am not invisible. I’m right here. I’m a proud Black woman. I’m proud of my heritage. So, what I need you to do is not affix value or not denigrate the fact that I’m Black, but to consider my full humanity.” — Tina Opie

“This often works with white women: I say, let’s not talk about gender. [What] if a man came up to you and just said, ‘I don’t see you as a woman. I just see you as a human.’ That’s how it feels to me when somebody says, ‘I don’t see race,’” Opie said. “I’m not Casper, I am not invisible. I’m right here. I’m a proud Black woman. I’m proud of my heritage. So, what I need you to do is not affix value or not denigrate the fact that I’m Black, but to consider my full humanity.”

Before systemic change can occur, Opie and Schuyler said CEOs must model this self-analysis and create a safe environment for employees to do the same, knowing they have permission to try and fail before they get conversations around race and gender right.

“I think this is going to be incredibly challenging. A lot of wounds have opened over the past eight months. You don’t just have somebody win and get past those. A lot of healing needs to happen, and that will have to occur before any progress is made.” — Shannon Schuyler

“Even with that tremendous outpouring and certainly a reckoning that we had (over the summer) around social and racial injustice, we’re a very divided country,” Schuyler later reflected. “I think this is going to be incredibly challenging. A lot of wounds have opened over the past eight months. You don’t just have somebody win and get past those. A lot of healing needs to happen, and that will have to occur before any progress is made.”

Do we have the courage?

Empathy. Honesty. Vulnerability. Introspection. Difficult conversations. Change.

Many solutions to racial inequality in business organizations and communities at large already exist. Many of these require quiet, personal, painful work, rather than splashy public gestures. Others call for systemic change that can empower organizations with new perspectives.

The presenters say such steps are crucial to creating lasting change on issues of race. Leaders must model the behavior they want to see in others, promote people of color into leadership roles, create safe spaces for honest conversations, and pay employees appropriately for their diversity, equity, and inclusion work.

But the scholars cautioned that individuals, businesses, governments, and even academic institutions like the Center for Positive Organizations have a long way to go before equity is achieved.

“Hearing that honest and raw set of dialogues [during the event] uncovered an important and pervasive set of issues that had previously been overlooked, buried, and, in some cases, completely integrated into the way we led our organizational lives.” — Brianna Caza

“I think (the panel) has had an impact on the way we have conversations and develop practices in many places, including the Center for Positive Organizations,” said Brianna Caza, a panel co-curator and an associate professor of management at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. “Hearing that honest and raw set of dialogues uncovered an important and pervasive set of issues that had previously been overlooked, buried, and, in some cases, completely integrated into the way we led our organizational lives.”

The fact is, we all exist in a racist system created hundreds of years ago to empower white men. The question for us now is: Do we have the courage to confront our roles in this system and have the honest, empathetic conversations that can help us take action to change it?

Fumbling in relationships across difference: The potential spiraling effects of a single racial identity reference at work


Purpose

Black people, as members of a historically underrepresented and marginalized racial identity group in the workplace, are often confronted with identity references – face-to-face encounters in which their race is referenced by a White colleague in a comment, question or joke. Identity references can be interpreted by a Black colleague in a variety of ways (e.g. as hostile and insulting or well-intentioned, even flattering). Identity references can derail the building of relationships across difference, but under certain conditions may open the door for deeper understanding and connection. The conceptual framework in this article delineates conditions under which an identity reference may elicit an initial negative reaction, yet, when engaged directly, may lead to generative experiences and promote higher connection and learning in relationships across difference.

Design/methodology/approach

This article builds theory on identity references by incorporating relevant research on race, identity, diversity, attribution and interpersonal relationships at work.

Findings

The framework identifies a common precursor to identity references and three factors that are likely to influence the attribution a Black person makes for a White colleague’s identity reference. It then describes how, based on that attribution, a Black person is likely to respond to the White referencer, and how that response is likely to affect their interpersonal relationship over time.

Originality/value

By explicating how a single identity reference can have significant implications for relationships across difference, the framework deepens understanding of how race affects the development of interpersonal relationships between Black and White colleagues at work. In doing so, this article advances research on race, diversity, workplace relationships and positive organizational scholarship.

Research Handbook on Organizational Resilience


This Research Handbook identifies how resilience has evolved as a critical theoretical concept in the organizational sciences. International resilience scholars conceptualize and explore the various ways resilience can be embedded in theory and practice, offering new and updated perspectives on the importance of resilience in multiple contexts.

Sections cover the nature of resilience at employee, team and organizational levels; the processes and dynamics of resilience in different contexts; and the antecedents and outcomes of these forms of resilience. Chapters provide case studies and theoretical frameworks to bring clarity, covering stress and coping, diversity and resilience, crisis management, employee behaviour, continuity and development.

Organizational studies scholars interested in advancing theory and practice of resilience will find this Research Handbook includes a range of important considerations for the field. With application of several different levels of analysis, chapters discussing stress and coping will also appeal to those from a social psychology background.

Editors:

  • Edward H. Powley, Graduate School of Defense Management, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California
  • Brianna Barker Caza, Bryan School of Business and Economics, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, US
  • Arran Caza, Bryan School of Business and Economics, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, US

Contributors:

  • Elena Antonacopoulou, University of Liverpool, United Kingdom
  • Scott Baker, BetterUp, United States
  • Mehri E. Baloochi, University of Manitoba, Canada
  • Michelle A. Barton, Bentley University, United States
  • Thomas E. Becker, University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, United States
  • Thomas W. Britt, Clemson University, United States
  • Kim S. Cameron, University of Michigan, United States
  • Arran Caza, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
  • Brianna Barker Caza, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
  • Julie Chesley, Pepperdine University, United States
  • Lisa Jones Christensen, Brigham Young University, United States
  • Marlys K. Christianson, University of Toronto, Canada
  • Victoria D’Avella, Pepperdine University, United States
  • Samantha E. Erskine, Case Western Reserve University, United States
  • Maria Laura Frigotto, University of Trento, Italy
  • Franck Guarnieri, MINES Paris-Tech, France
  • Scott C. Hammond, Utah State University, United States
  • Jared Harris, University of Virginia, United States
  • Silja Hartmann, Technische Universität München, Germany
  • Morela Hernandez, University of Virginia, United States
  • Megan Hess, Washington and Lee University, United States
  • Martin Hoegl, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Germany
  • Erika Hayes James, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, United States
  • Erica M. Johnson, Case Western Reserve University, United States
  • Jean D. Kabongo, University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, United States
  • Dimitrios Karolidis, University of Macedonia, Greece
  • Sophie A. Kay, Georgia Institute of Technology, United States
  • D. Christopher Kayes, The George Washington University, United States
  • Joana Kuntz, University of Canterbury, New Zealand
  • Merilee Larsen, Utah Valley University, United States
  • Martina Linnenluecke, Macquarie University, Australia
  • Sanna Malinen, University of Canterbury, New Zealand
  • Courtney L. McCluney, Cornell University, United States
  • Brent McKnight, McMaster University, Canada
  • Kelsey L. Merlo, University of South Florida, United States
  • Katharina Näswall, University of Canterbury, New Zealand
  • Lukas Neville, University of Manitoba, Canada
  • Venkataraman Nilakant, University of Canterbury, New Zealand
  • Mara Olekalns, University of Melbourne, Australia
  • Edward H. Powley, Naval Postgraduate School, United States
  • Sebastian Raetze, Technische Universität Dresden, Germany
  • Laura Morgan Roberts, University of Virginia, United States
  • Gargi Sawhney, Auburn University, United States
  • John Paul Stephens, Case Western Reserve University, United States
  • Kathleen M. Sutcliffe, Johns Hopkins University, United States
  • Sébastien Travadel, MINES Paris-Tech, France
  • Fotis Vouzas, University of Macedonia, Greece
  • Bernard Walker, University of Canterbury, New Zealand
  • Matthias Weiss, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany
  • Lynn Perry Wooten, Simmons University, United States
  • Jeewhan Yoon, Korea University, South Korea

 

Laura Morgan Roberts discusses women leaders on Better Life Lab podcast


Laura Morgan Roberts

Center for Positive Organizations (CPO) faculty affiliate Laura Morgan Roberts (along with Ilana Fischer, Adrienne Penta, and Toni Irving) is a guest on the Better Life Lab podcast episode “Crisis Conversations: Women and Leadership.

The episode explores why there are there still so few women—particularly women of color—in leadership roles in politics, academia, and business. It also examines how to create space for diverse women leaders and enable them to thrive.

“We are at yet another critical juncture around leadership, where we have to take seriously some of our beliefs and assumptions about race and gender and power, within our workplaces, within our communities, within our world,” Roberts says.

Roberts is a Professor of Practice at the University of Virginia. Her book, Race, Work and Leadership: New Perspectives on the Black Experience, was published by the Harvard Business Review Press.

Networking in the COVID-19 era opens opportunities for professionals of color, Laura Morgan Roberts writes


Center for Positive Organizations (CPO) faculty affiliate Laura Morgan Roberts writes about ‘Remote Networking as a Person of Color’ in the Harvard Business Review.

The article examines how professionals of color can leverage networking during the COVID-19 pandemic. Roberts and fellow researcher Anthony J. Mayo suggest that some of the barriers that existed before the era of remote work and physical distancing — travel, cost or scheduling conflicts — no longer prevent professionals of color from networking.

“In fact, the Covid-19 crisis may create new, more attractive opportunities for building relationships with people who can share valuable information about opportunities, provide honest assessments of strengths and weaknesses, and advocate for promotions,” the researchers write.

Roberts is a Professor of Practice at the University of Virginia. Her book, Race, Work and Leadership: New Perspectives on the Black Experience, was published by the Harvard Business Review Press.

Laura Morgan Roberts pens message to black women scholars in Diverse magazine


Center for Positive Organizations (CPO) faculty affiliate Laura Morgan Roberts writes “A Message to Black Women Scholars and Our Allies” in Diverse, a news magazine focused on higher education.

Roberts and co-author Patricia Faison Hewlin acknowledge the emotions of black women scholars as they risk professional and social consequences to speak truth to power, all the while knowing their academic contributions are less likely to be recognized and rewarded.

The researchers say they have hope and encourage other black women scholars not to give up, but ask: “As the summer of 2020 ends and a new school year begins, we raise the question: will diversity, equity and inclusion remain on our agendas with actionable steps that are well-sustained in years to come?”

Roberts is a Professor of Practice at the University of Virginia. Her book, Race, Work and Leadership: New Perspectives on the Black Experience, was published by the Harvard Business Review Press.

Hewlin is an associate professor of Organizational Behaviour at McGill University. She addressed the topic of authenticity during the 2019-2020 Positive Links speaker series hosted by the Center for Positive Organizations.