A Positive Approach to Studying Diversity in Organizations

38 Pages Posted: 10 Sep 2010

See all articles by Lakshmi Ramarajan

Lakshmi Ramarajan

Harvard Business School

David A. Thomas

Harvard Business School

Date Written: September 10, 2010

Abstract

In this article, we distinguish between positive findings in diversity research and a positive approach to studying diversity. We first review and integrate research on diversity from organizational behavior, social psychology and sociology from 1998-2010 that has already documented positive findings in relation to diversity. We discuss this research using two broad categories: (1) What is positively affected by diversity? (Positive for what)? This category consists of research that has shown instances of intergroup equality, positive intergroup relations and the high performance of diverse groups. (2) When is diversity positive (Positive when)? This category describes organizational and individual level conditions under which intergroup outcomes, relations and group performance are positive. Second, we discuss a positive approach to studying diversity and describe some examples of organizational scholarship that has taken such an approach. We also discuss some of the limitations of taking a positive approach to diversity and propose some ways in which diversity scholars interested in taking a positive approach can overcome these limitations. By illuminating both positive findings in diversity research and a positive approach to studying diversity, we hope to spark more research that examines the beneficial and empowering aspects of difference for individuals and groups in organizations.

Keywords: Diversity, Positive

Suggested Citation

Ramarajan, Lakshmi and Thomas, David A., A Positive Approach to Studying Diversity in Organizations (September 10, 2010). Harvard Business School Organizational Behavior Unit Working Paper No. 11-024. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1674930 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1674930

Lakshmi Ramarajan (Contact Author)

Harvard Business School ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

David A. Thomas

Harvard Business School ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

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