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Being Different: Relational Demography and Organizational Attachment

Anne S. Tsui, Terri D. Egan and Charles A. O'Reilly III
Administrative Science Quarterly
Vol. 37, No. 4 (Dec., 1992), pp. 549-579
DOI: 10.2307/2393472
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2393472
Page Count: 31
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Being Different: Relational Demography and Organizational Attachment
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Abstract

We used self-categorization theory--which proposes that people may use social characteristics such as age, race, or organizational membership to define psychological groups and to promote a positive self-identity--to develop and test hypotheses about the effects of demographic diversity in organizations on an individual's psychological and behavioral attachment to the organization. Individual-level commitment, attendance behavior, and tenure intentions were examined as a function of the individual's degree of difference from others on such social categories as age, tenure, education, sex, and race. We expected that the effect of being different would have different effects for minorities (i.e., women and nonwhites) than for members of the majority (i.e., men and whites). Analyses of a sample of 151 groups comprising 1,705 respondents showed that increasing work-unit diversity was associated with lower levels of psychological attachment among group members. Nonsymmetrical effects were found for sex and race, with whites and men showing larger negative effects for increased unit heterogeneity than nonwhites and women. The results of the study call into question the fundamental assumption that underlies much of race and gender research in organizations--that the effect of heterogeneity is always felt by the minority.

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