Theses Doctoral

A Diversity-Conflict Model of Inclusion

Huggins-James, Dara

Conversations around diversity and inclusion have become increasingly central to companies’ pursuit of effective workplaces. This trend is partially supported by social psychology and management literature, which finds many benefits of diverse groups, such as improved decision-making and increased revenue. However, for each article mentioning diversity’s benefits, there are at least as many mentioning its capacity to produce conflict. Overall, then, the empirical link between group diversity and group conflict has been well explored in the present literature.

What has been less explored is whether certain identity groups, who may contribute to the goal of increasing diversity, are also perceived as being more likely to cause workplace conflict. This dissertation explores this research question, focusing on how assessments of perceived “diversity” and “conflict” may inform inclusion outcomes. This phenomenon is discussed as it relates to disparate inclusion outcomes for Black and Hispanic/Latinx members of the workforce in particular.

Chapter I reviews literature on diversity, conflict, and inclusion in the workplace, outlining a Diversity-Conflict Model of Inclusion based on the proposed concepts of perceived diversity and perceived conflict. Chapter II summarizes foundational studies in this program of research, providing preliminary evidence that Asian, Black, Hispanic/Latinx, and White individuals are evaluated differently for their diversity and conflict potential, creating a hierarchy of value amongst racial minority groups. Chapter III, a job candidate assessment paradigm, finds that the framing of diversity and conflict as being of high or low value or importance informs evaluations of racial minority candidates; results generally show that Black candidates are especially valued when diversity and conflict are framed as positive or essential the job description.

Finally, Chapter IV, a course assessment experiment, explores how the association of diversity with conflict may animate course preferences in pre-workforce adults; this chapter departs from the other studies in this dissertation by not distinctly operationalizing perceived diversity or perceived conflict. Rather, this chapter focuses on how avoidance of conflict in diverse spaces is related to compromised inclusion outcomes for students. Results show that students do not necessarily avoid courses as a function of diversity, but may prefer discussion to be less central to their overall grade in the context of Critical Race/Gender Studies courses (where the concept of diversity is potentially more salient). This dissertation concludes by discussing future directions in understanding and studying the diversity-conflict relationship.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Leach, Colin W.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
February 15, 2023