Diversity ideologies are beliefs about the importance of demographic differences and how they should be navigated in the workplace. Those with identity-conscious ideologies, such as multiculturalism, believe that racial and ethnic differences should be acknowledged and valued, whereas those with identity-blind ideologies believe that they should be minimized.
The three types of identity-blind ideologies are colorblindness (i.e. the belief that the best way to approach diversity is to ignore all racial and ethnic differences), meritocracy (i.e. the idea that reward or punishment should be based on individual performance), and assimilation (i.e. the notion that racial and ethnic minorities should adopt the majority culture to reduce group differences).
Because recognition of one’s identity is an important human need, these different ideologies may have consequences for how followers perceive their leaders and how they react within the organization.
DIVERSITY APPROACHES FOR LEADERS
Researchers (Dang et al., 2022) conducted two studies in which employees were given varying statements about a hypothetical leader’s management of racial and ethnic diversity in the workplace. The employees were then asked about how ethical they perceived the leader to be and their intent to engage in organizational citizenship behaviors—voluntary positive actions that employees direct toward their organization.
The results indicated that leaders with identity-conscious ideologies were perceived as more ethical by their followers. Ethical leadership perceptions in turn increased organizational citizenship behaviors among employees. These findings were confirmed in a third study where employees responded to their own leader’s communication regarding diversity ideologies.
PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS FOR ORGANIZATIONS
These findings suggest that leaders should be aware of the impact that their diversity ideologies may have on their followers’ behaviors and perceptions. Despite the findings that identity-conscious ideologies lead to increased ethical perceptions and increased organizational citizenship behaviors, the authors discourage leaders from inauthentically adopting these ideologies simply for the strategic benefits. Instead, leaders should understand that there are reasons for why employees may prefer these approaches to diversity, and for why employees may react positively in response to these approaches.
Dang, C. T., Volpone, S. D., & Umphress, E. E. (2022). The ethics of diversity ideology: Consequences of leader diversity ideology on ethical leadership perception and organizational citizenship behavior. Journal of Applied Psychology. Advance online publication.