This summary is provided by the IPR Organizational Communication Research Center.

Focusing on racial minority employees’ experience, this study examined how internal communication affects employee coping behaviors related to workplace race discrimination. Specifically, the authors compared emotion-focused with problem-focused coping strategies. While emotional coping prompts individuals to manage their emotions rather than their problems, problem-focused coping helps individuals directly deal with problems. The authors argued that employees who experience workplace discrimination would be more likely to adopt an emotion-focused coping strategy than a problem-focused coping strategy. However, perceived transparent communication practice should make a difference in how workplace discrimination affects employees’ coping strategies.

In addition, the study endeavored to find out the relationships between employee coping behaviors, employee-organization relationships, and employees’ communication behaviors (i.e., positive and negative megaphoning toward the organization). The authors believed that emotion-focused coping is harmful to building organization-public relationships and positive megaphoning (defined as the likelihood of employees’ voluntary information forwarding or information sharing about organizational strengths and accomplishments). In contrast, problem-focused coping fosters high-quality employee relationships with organizations and leads to employees speaking positively about their organizations.

An online survey of 453 participants was conducted. The majority of the participants were Black (n= 242, 53.4%), followed by Hispanic or Latino (n = 131, 28.9%), Asian or Asian-American (n = 46, 10.2%), and American Indian or Alaska native (n = 15, 3.1%). There were 331 (73%) female and 122 (27%) male participants. The average age was 35.81. About half of the participants worked in large companies that have over 500 employees.

Key Findings
1.) Discrimination experiences at the workplace lead to employees’ adoption of emotion-focused coping strategies instead of problem-focused coping strategies.
2.) Discrimination experiences negatively affect perceived employee-organization relationship quality, resulting in lower levels of positive megaphoning and higher levels of negative megaphoning.
3.) Emotion-focused coping strategies diminish employee-organization relationships, reduce positive megaphoning, and increase negative megaphoning. On the other hand, problem-focused coping strategies exert the opposite effects.
4.) When employees perceive communication transparency from organizations, their discrimination experiences are less likely to generate the adoption of an emotion-focused coping strategy.

Implications for Practice
This study recommends that organizations should:
1.) Employ transparent communication to encourage employees to adopt a problem-focused strategy and avoid an emotion-focused strategy.
2.) Hold meetings for racial minority employees to identify their information needs regarding their unfair treatment at work.

Li, J. Y., Lee, Y., Tian, S., & Tsai, W. (2021). Coping with workplace racial discrimination: The role of internal communication. Public Relations Review, 47(4), 102089.

Location of Article
This article is available online here.
(abstract free, purchase full article)

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
Follow on Twitter

Leave a Reply