Resisting the Iron Cage: The Effects of Bureaucratic Reforms to Promote Equity
52 Pages Posted: 23 Oct 2014
Date Written: September 30, 2014
Organization scholars since Max Weber have argued that formal personnel systems can prevent discrimination. Studies show both positive and negative effects. We draw on sociological and psychological literatures to develop a nuanced theory of the effects of bureaucracy. Drawing on self-perception and contact theories, we contend that initiatives that engage managers in promoting diversity, such as special recruitment and training programs, will increase diversity. Drawing on job-autonomy and self-determination theories, we contend that initiatives designed to limit managerial discretion in hiring and promotion — job tests, performance evaluations, and grievance procedures — will elicit resistance and have adverse effects on workforce diversity. By contrast, we expect that bureaucratic reforms designed to increase transparency without limiting managerial discretion will not have adverse effects. Finally, drawing on accountability and responsibility theories, we expect that monitoring by diversity managers or federal regulators will improve the effects of bureaucratic reforms. We examine the effects of personnel innovations on managerial diversity in 816 American workplaces over thirty years. Our findings help to explain the slow progress America has made in reducing job segregation and inequality over the last quarter century. Corporate practices designed to quell discrimination have frequently activated it.
Keywords: Diversity Management; Inequality; Gender; Race
JEL Classification: D21, D63
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation