ILR School

Faculty Publications - Organizational Behavior

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    Anti-Racist Actions and Accountability: Not More Empty Promises
    Boykin, C. Malik; Brown, N. Derek; Carter, James T.; Dukes, Kristin; Green, Dorainne, J.; Harrison, Timothy; Hebl, Mikki; McCleary-Grady, Asia; Membere, Ashley; McJunkins, Cordy A.; Simmons, Cortney; Singletary Walker, Sarah; Smith, Alexis Nicole; Williams, Amber D. (Emerald, 2020)
    [Excerpt] The current piece summarizes five critical points about racism from the point of view of Black scholars and allies: (1) Black people are experiencing exhaustion from and physiological effects of racism, (2) racism extends far beyond police brutality and into most societal structures, (3) despite being the targets of racism, Black people are often blamed for their oppression and retaliated against for their response to it, (4) everyone must improve their awareness and knowledge (through both formal education and individual motivation) to fight racism and (5) anti-racist policies and accountability are key to enact structural reformation.
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    What's in a Name? The Hidden Historical Ideologies Embedded in the Black and African American Racial Labels
    Hall, Erica V.; Townsend, Sarah S. M.; Carter, James T. (SAGE, 2021)
    History can inconspicuously repeat itself through words and language. We explored the association between the “Black” and “African American” racial labels and the ideologies of the historical movements within which they gained prominence (Civil Rights and Black Power, respectively). Two content analyses and two preregistered experimental studies (N = 1,204 White American adults) show that the associations between “Black” and “bias and discrimination” and between “African American” and “civil rights and equality” are evident in images, op-eds, and perceptions of organizations. Google Images search results for “Black people” evoke more racially victimized imagery than search results for “African American people” (Study 1), and op-eds that use the Black label contain more bias and discrimination content than those that use the African American label (Study 2). Finally, White Americans infer the ideologies of organizations by the racial label within the organization’s name (Studies 3 and 4). Consequently, these inferences guide the degree to which Whites support the organization financially.
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    Research on Anti-Black Racism in Organizations: Insights, Ideas, and Considerations
    King, Danielle D.; Hall, Allison V.; Johnson, L.; Carter, James; Burrows, Dominique; Samuel, Naomi (Springer, 2023)
    In the wake of recent, highly publicized examples of anti-Black racism, scholars and practitioners are seeking ways to use their skills, resources, and platforms to better understand and address this phenomenon. Naming, examining, and countering anti-Black racism are critical steps toward fostering antiracist science and practice. To support those efforts, this paper details key insights from past research on anti-Black racism in organizations, draws from critical race perspectives to highlight specific topics that warrant consideration in future research, and offers considerations for how scholars should approach anti-Black racism research. Future research ideas include: specific manifestations of anti-Black racism within organizations, the double-bind of authenticity for Black employees, intersectionality among Black employees, and means of redressing anti-Black racism in organizations. Suggested research considerations include: understanding the history of anti-Black racism within research and integrating anti-Black racism research insights across organizational science. Research insights, ideas, and considerations are outlined to provide context for past and current experiences and guidance for future scholarship concerning anti-Black racism in organizations.
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    Diversity Initiatives in the US Workplace: A Brief History, Their Intended and Unintended Consequences
    Portocarrero, Sandra; Carter, James T. (Elsevier, 2022)
    Diversity initiatives are designed to help workers from disadvantaged backgrounds achieve equitable opportunities and outcomes in organizations. However, these programs are often ineffective. To better understand less-than-desired outcomes and the shifting diversity landscape, we synthesize literature on how corporate affirmative action programs became diversity initiatives and current literature on their effectiveness. We focus specifically on work dealing with mechanisms that make diversity initiatives effective as well as their unintended consequences. When taken together, these literature point to several inequality-specific omissions in contemporary discussions of organizational diversity initiatives, such as the omission of racial inequality. As we contend in the first section of this review, without affirmative action law, which initially tasked US employers with ending racial discrimination at the workplace, we would not have diversity initiatives. We conclude by providing directions for future research and elaborating on several core foci that scholars might pursue to better (re)connect issues of organizational diversity with the aims of equity, equality and social justice.
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    Power and Perceived Influence: I Caused Your Behavior, But I'm Not Responsible For It
    Bohns, Vanessa K.; Newark, Daniel A. (Wiley & Sons, 2019-01)
    There are numerous examples of powerful people denying responsibility for others' (mis)conduct in which they played—and acknowledge playing—a causal role. The current article seeks to explain this conundrum by examining the difference between, and powerful people's beliefs about, causality and responsibility. Research has shown power to have numerous psychological consequences. Some of these consequences, such as overconfidence, are likely to increase an individual's belief that he or she caused another person's behavior. However, others, such as decreased perspective-taking, are likely to decrease an individual's belief that he or she was responsible for another person's behavior. In combination, these psychological consequences of power may lead powerful people to believe that they instigated another's behavior while simultaneously believing that the other person could have chosen to do otherwise. The dissociation between these two attributions may help to explain why people in positions of power often deny responsibility for others' behavior—unethical or otherwise—that they undeniably caused.
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    With a Little Help from My Friends (and Strangers): Closeness as a Moderator of the Underestimation-of-Compliance Effect
    Deri, Sebastian; Stein, Daniel H.; Bohns, Vanessa K. (Elsevier, 2019-05)
    Those seeking help systematically underestimate the likelihood that strangers will help them (Bohns, 2016). However, it is not known whether this same error persists when requesting help from people with whom we interact regularly. In three experiments (the last of which was pre-registered), participants (N = 310) predicted the likelihood that either their friends or strangers would agree to a request for help. Participants then approached members of one of these two groups (i.e., friends or strangers) with this request (N = 953). We confirmed our predictions that (1) overall help-seekers would underestimate the likelihood that those they approached for help would agree to their requests and that (2) this underestimation error would be smaller for participants making requests of friends. We also found that (3) the underestimation effect persists even for those making requests of friends and (4) help-seekers expected the rate of helping between the two groups to vary more than it did. We discuss and test several mechanisms that might account for these effects. These findings suggest people may over-rely on their friends, and discount the role of strangers, when seeking help.
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    Rejecting Unwanted Romantic Advances Is More Difficult Than Suitors Realize
    Bohns, Vanessa K.; DeVincent, Lauren A. (SAGE, 2018-11)
    In two preregistered studies, we find that initiators of unrequited romantic advances fail to appreciate the difficult position their targets occupy, both in terms of how uncomfortable it is for targets to reject an advance and how targets’ behavior is affected, professionally and otherwise, because of this discomfort. We find the same pattern of results in a survey of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) graduate students (N = 942) who recalled actual instances of unwanted or unrequited romantic pursuit (Study 1) and in an experiment in which participants (N = 385) were randomly assigned to the roles of “target” or “suitor” when reading a vignette involving an unwanted romantic advance made by a coworker (Study 2). Notably, women in our Study 1 sample of STEM graduate students were more than twice as likely to report having been in the position of target as men; thus, our findings have potential implications for the retention of women in STEM.
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    Empathy and Expectations of Others' Willingness to Help
    Bohns, Vanessa K.; Flynn, Francis J. (Elsevier, 2021)
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    Why a Simple Act of Kindness Is Not as Simple as It Seems: Underestimating the Positive Impact of Our Compliments on Others
    Boothby, Erica J.; Bohns, Vanessa K. (SAGE, 2020)
    A simple compliment can make someone’s day, start a new friendship, or just make the world a better, kinder place. So, why don’t people give more compliments? Perhaps people misforecast the effect their compliment will have. Five studies explored this possibility. In Studies 1a and 1b, compliment givers underestimated how positively the person receiving their compliment would feel, with consequences for their likelihood of giving a compliment. Compliment givers also overestimated how bothered and uncomfortable the recipient would feel (Study 2)—and did so even in hindsight (Study 3). Compliment givers’ own anxiety and concern about their competence led to their misprediction, whereas third-party forecasters were accurate (Study 4). Finally, despite compliment givers’ anxiety at the prospect of giving compliments across our studies, they felt better after having done so (Study 4). Our studies suggest that people misestimate their compliments’ value to others, and so they refrain from engaging in this prosocial behavior.
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    Consent is an Organizational Behavior Issue
    Bohns, Vanessa K.; Schlund, Rachel (Elsevier, 2021)
    Consent is central to many organizational interactions and obligations. Employees consent to various terms of employment, both formal (contractual obligations) and informal (extra-role responsibilities, interpersonal requests). Yet consent has traditionally been considered a legal matter, unrelated to organizational behavior. In this article, we make a case for why, and how, organizational behavior scholars should undertake the study of consent. We first review scholarship on the legal understanding of consent. We argue that the traditional legal understanding is an incomplete way to think about consent in organizations, and we call for a more nuanced understanding that incorporates psychological and philosophical insights about consent—particularly consent in employer-employee relationships. We then connect this understanding of consent to traditional organizational behavior topics (autonomy, fairness, and trust) and examine these connections within three organizational domains (employee surveillance, excessive work demands, and sexual harassment). We conclude with future directions for research on consent in organizations.