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Working Effectively Across Differences – at the Individual, Team and Organizational Levels

Special issue call for papers from Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

Editors:  Ruth Bernstein, Pacific Lutheran University ([email protected]),
Diana Bilimoria, Case Western University ([email protected]),
Marcy Crary, Bentley University ([email protected]).

As our world and workplaces become increasingly diverse and global, research is needed to identify how individuals, teams and organizations may best learn from and attain the benefits of social identity differences. In this special issue of EDI, we invite empirical research articles that help us understand how people build their capacities to work effectively across differences in the workplace – as individuals, in work groups, and in organizations as a whole.

We anticipate that through this special edition we will further the understanding of how diverse perspectives and practices are included and enacted. We are interested in exploring qualitative or quantitative data-based empirical research around competencies, practices, and behaviors at the individual, group/team, or organizational level that contribute to the successful practical outcomes in working within a diverse environment.

Focus on the Individual Working from Dominant Identity Positions
Focusing on individuals as leaders and managers in organizations, we are particularly interested in how people learn to build high quality, cross-identity work relationships when they are working out of one of their own dominant group identities. Within the complexity of our multiple, intersecting identities, it can be hard to stay aware of dominant identities and how they shape our experiences and perspectives and abilities to effectively engage across identities in work situations (Debebe and Reinert, 2012). How do individuals change their mindsets, move out of their “established habits of mind” (Kegan 1994) and develop useful strategies, perspectives for more authentic engagement in their cross-identity work relationships? Within our dominant group identities how do we learn to develop our “desired work selves” that Ibarra describes in her work (Ibarra, 1999) and develop positive relationships across identity differences (Davidson and James, 2007).

From empirical research, what data do we have to help us understand these kinds of identity challenges in the workplace? Some examples of individual-level questions that might be addressed in the special issue include:
• How do people learn to optimally engage in cross-identity work relationships when they experience “identity abrasions” (Ely, Meyerson and Davidson, 2006) or “stereotype threats”(Roberson and Kulik, 2007) in these relationships?
• Moving beyond the “protective hesitation” that Thomas describes in “The Truth about Mentoring Minorities: Race Matters” (HBR 2001), how do people learn to work with the obstacles (interpersonal and intrapersonal) that may inhibit the development of satisfying mentor-mentee relationships?
• What kind of interpersonal, group and organizational environments help individuals build the experiences, strategies, skills that may enable them to do the requisite identity work for their personal and professional development? Are there environmental enablers, disablers?

Focus on Maximizing Diversity and Inclusion at the Group Level
In contemporary societies where ethnic diversity is increasing, individuals from different cultural backgrounds often coexist in a civil fashion and interact without expressed conflict. However, achieving the economic and social benefits of multicultural society requires more – a deep diversity (Harrison, Price, & Bell, 1998) characterized by intercultural learning (Ely & Thomas, 2001) and the skills to capitalize on cultural differences. A paradox exists where work groups and teams may build community, social capital, and trust (Putnam, 2000), and interethnic friendships (Briggs, 2007), yet, research additionally indicates that diversity in these contemporary communities often inhibits rather than promotes solidarity and social capital (among others: Bradshaw & Fredette, 2011; Putnam, 2007; Ostrower, 2007; Siciliano, 1996). The existence of this paradox suggests that we must continually seek additional understanding in how to create social capital that is sufficiently strong to bridge differences among diverse members, forming bonds that produce cross-cultural trust, learning, comfort and skill.

Some examples of group-level questions that might be addressed in the special issue include:
• How can groups intentionally foster deep-level diversity (Harrison, Price, & Bell, 1998) among its members?
• What kinds of practices promote or inhibit inclusion in diverse groups?
• How does trust, learning, comfort, and skill at the individual-level inform group-level diversity and inclusion?
Focus on Creating Organizational and Institutional Cultures of Inclusion
Focusing on the organizational level, we are particularly interested in how cultures of inclusion are created and maintained. What organizational practices facilitate the development of inclusive cultures that support sustained, supportive and productive work interactions among diverse members? What organizational level practices have worked well to support the development and maintenance of productive cross-identity work relationships?

Some examples of organizational-level questions that might be addressed in the special issue include:
• What organizational practices and systems foster inclusion of differences?
• What examples/case studies do we have of organizations that have embraced and valued differences?
• Under what conditions is inclusion more likely to be enabled at the organizational level?
• What are extant barriers/challenges to organizational inclusion and how have they been overcome?

Prospective contributors are welcome to engage with the guest editors before the submission date to discuss the suitability of their work for this publication. Please note that the submissions should be made through the Manuscript Central. Papers to be considered for this special issue should be submitted online via (selecting "Special Issue Paper" (Working Effectively Across Differences – at the Individual, Team and Organizational Levels) as the Manuscript Type).
Envisaged Timetable:
Call for papers issued: November 30, 2012
Submission of full papers: November 30, 2013
Editorial Decision: Anticipated May 2014
Anticipated Publication of the special issue: Summer 2014

Bradshaw, P., and C. Fredette: 2011, ‘The Inclusive Nonprofit Boardroom: Leveraging the Transformative Potential of Diversity’, Nonprofit Quarterly, Spring: 21-26.
Briggs, X: 2007, ‘“Some of My Best Friends Are…”: Interracial Friendships, Class, and Segregation in America’, City & Community, 6(4): 263-290.
Davidson, M. N., and E. H. James: 2007, ‘The Engines of Positive Relationships Across Difference: Conflict and Learning’, in J. E. Dutton, and B. R. Ragins, (eds), Exploring Positive Relationships at Work: Building a Theoretical and Research Foundation, (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Mahwah, NJ): 137-158.
Debebe, G., and K. A. Reinert, Forthcoming, ‘Leading with our Whole Selves: A Multiple Identity Approach to Leadership Development’ in M. Miville, and A. Ferguson (eds.), Handbook on Race-Ethnicity and Gender in Psychology, (Springer, New York, NY).Ely, R. J.: 1995, ‘The Role of Dominant Identity and Experience in Organizational Work on Diversity’, in S. E. Jackson, and M. N. Ruderman, (eds), Diversity in Work Teams: Research Paradigms for a Changing Workplace, (American Psychological Association, Washington, D.C.): 161-186.
Ely, R.J., D. Meyerson, and M. Davidson: 2006, ‘Rethinking Political Correctness’, Harvard Business Review, 84(9): 78-90.
Ely, R. J., and D. A. Thomas: 2001, ‘Cultural Diversity at Work: The Effects of Diversity Perspectives on Work Group Process and Outcomes’, Administrative Science Quarterly, 46: 229-273.
Harrison, D. A., K. H. Price, and M. P. Bell: 1998, ‘Beyond relational demography: Tie and the effects of surface-and deep-level diversity on work group cohesion’, Academy of Management Journal, 41 (1): 96-107.
Kegan, R.: 1994, In Over our Heads: The Mental Demand of Public Life, (Harvard University Press, Boston, MA).
Ibarra, H.: 2007, ‘Provisional selves: Experimenting with image and identity in professional adaptation’, Administrative Science Quarterly, 44(4): 764-791.
Ostrower, F.: 2007, ‘Nonprofit governance in the United States: Findings on performance and accountability from the first national representative study’.
Petriglieri, J. L., 2011, ‘Under Threat: Responses to and the Consequences of Threats to Individuals’ Identities’, Academy of Management Review, 36(4): 641-662.
Putnam, R.: 2000, Bowling Alone, (Simon & Schuster: New York, NY).
Roberson, L., and C. T. Kulik: 2007: ‘Stereotype Threat at Work’, Academy of Management Perspectives, 21(2): 24-40.
Roberts, L.: 2005, ‘Changing faces: Professional image construction in diverse organizational settings’, Academy of Management Review, 30(4): 685-711.
Thomas, D.: 2001, ‘The Truth about Mentoring Minorities: Race Matters’, Harvard Business Review, 79(4): 98-107. 
Siciliano, J. I.: 1996, ‘The relationship of board member diversity to organizational performance’, Journal of Business Ethics,15: 1313-1320.