Nonsymmetrical Effects of Racial Diversity on Organizational Minority Members: Evidence from the Teaching Profession Open Access

Nelson, Jennifer L. (Spring 2018)

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Whom does diversity benefit? Previous quantitative studies of the effect of demographic composition on worker outcomes find that job satisfaction, commitment, and psychological attachment to the workgroup are lower for whites who work among larger numbers of nonwhite colleagues. However, these outcomes are positively or not affected for nonwhites working among a majority of whites. In contrast, qualitative studies on composition effects have historically focused on high-status occupations in which previously underrepresented groups have gained representation in the workplace, finding that these groups’ experiences are more negative than the incumbent groups’. This dissertation makes a new contribution to organizational demography research by examining diversity effects using mixed data drawn from a mid-status but largely racially segregated occupation, teaching. I argue that because measures of demographic difference used in prior research typically do not gauge actual contact in the workplace, and because relational dynamics in teaching differ from those found in empirical contexts of extant research, the expected direction of the nonsymmetrical effects of diversity will differ.

Chapter 1 reviews organizational and sociological literature on the effects of demographic difference in the workplace. I describe the organizational problems that stem from ignoring diversity – either the presence or absence of it – as they appeared in the research sites selected for this study. The subsequent chapters all rely on data I collected over one year in five public high schools in one metropolitan area in the Southeastern United States: surveys, 118 interviews with teachers and staff, and 600 hours of ethnographic fieldwork. Using survey and interview data, Chapter 2 shows nonsymmetrical effects of diversity on black and white teachers’ coworker support and job satisfaction outcomes, being significant for blacks but not for whites. Using ethnographic data, Chapters 3 and 4 examine cross-race and same-race interactions among teachers, finding that organizational cultures shaped distinct types of black-white work partnerships while organizational processes shaped different types of “token ties” and resource outcomes for black teachers in the minority as compared to white teachers in the minority. Chapters 5 and 6 use ethnographic data to challenge the “Cellular Model” of teaching, which holds that teachers do not interact much beyond their classrooms. Chapter 7 integrates the findings on coworker support and links them to turnover outcomes, while also outlining practical applications for workers in high-contact occupations and organizations in human service industries.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction           1

Chapter 2. Diversity Tipping Points for Coworker Support and Job Satisfaction in Workplace Subgroups   20

Chapter 3. Cross-Race Coworker Support: Integrating Organizational Demography and Intergroup Relations Approaches          62

Chapter 4. How Tokens Form and Use Social Ties    99

Chapter 5. Corridors of Frustration: The Socialization and Boundary-Drawing Functions of Venting and Informal Peer Evaluations in Public Workspaces    159

Chapter 6. Popping in: How Individual Status and Organizational Attributes Influence Teachers’ Classroom Consultations         223

Chapter 7. Coworker Support and Ultimate Outcomes: Turnover within the Organization 267

Appendix         293

Works Cited    302

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