I am a visiting assistant professor of Organizational Behavior at Seaver College at Pepperdine University. I earned my PhD at the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia, with a specialization in leadership and organizational behavior.
My research focuses primarily on the factors that shape how people approach proactive behaviors at work, such as advice-seeking and networking. Specifically, I investigate what might dissuade individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds from utilizing the knowledge and expertise available in their network, and what might motivate them to take advantage of those opportunities.
1) Status incongruity: their status will generate a greater social cost for engaging in the proactive behavior because other people will perceive it as a counter-stereotypic behavior and a violation of expectations (Rudman, 2012). Minority employees’ proactive behaviors may be appreciated differently by supervisors or high-status people in organizations, compared with advantaged groups of employees. As a result, the difference in perceptions leads to different treatment by managers.
2) Cultural mistmatch: Schools and professional workplaces in the United States tend to promote and scaffold an independent model of the self (Stephens, Markus, & Phillips, 2014). In professional firms, managers tend to value employees who ask questions, take charge, and who confidently express ideas and opinions. Because people from disadvantaged backgrounds are less familiar with the independent model of the self so often promoted in middle-class professional settings, they may feel they do not have a good understanding of the “rules of the game”, and feel uncertain about the “right” way to act in such settings. These feelings of belonging uncertainty create motivational barriers for underrepresented people to engage in proactive behaviors.
Considering that individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to utilize the knowledge, expertise, and opportunities available in their network, investigating what motivates or inhibits people in engaging in proactive behaviors, and how to successfully navigate high-status contexts, is pivotal in reducing organizational inequality gaps. I have explored effective intervention/strategies for employees, from the perspective of managers as well as disadvantaged employees, so that they can contribute to mitigating those persistent challenges in organizations.