This summary is provided by the IPR Organizational Communication Research Center

Despite increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs being implemented in organizations, industry reports have cautioned that current diversity efforts are failing racial minorities. Researchers expanded the limited literature on minority employees to understand how public relations can help organizations create an inclusive workplace for minority employees, an imperative for the increasingly multicultural workforce in the U.S. Justice, as perceived by minority workers, is a key factor in implementing and evaluating organizations’ diversity initiatives and communication practice. Hence, the researchers examined how effective diversity-oriented leadership and internal communication systems can contribute to employees’ perceived organizational justice to drive key employee outcomes. Specifically, this study proposed that diversity-oriented leadership (i.e., recognizing and welcoming the contributions of employees from diverse backgrounds and characteristics in decision-making processes) and symmetrical internal communication are key antecedents of organizational justice, which in turn, influences employee engagement and advocative behaviors.

Researchers conducted an online survey of 633 employees from small, medium, and large organizations across different industries in the U.S. that identified as ethnic minorities. Participants represented were 69% female and 31% male, predominantly aged 25-34 (38%), with some college education (31%), and held experienced non-management positions (49%). Ethnically, participants identified as Black/African-American (52%), Hispanic/Latino (25%), Asian/Asian-American (16%), and American Indian/Alaskan Native (3%).

Key Findings
  • When leaders participated in diversity-oriented leadership, symmetrical internal communication was positively impacted, and participants reported feeling that two-way, reciprocal communication was stronger as a result.
  • As perceptions of symmetrical communication increased, so too did perceptions of organizational justice. Specifically, as employees and leadership communicated in equitable listening and sharing behaviors, the perception that the organization’s actions and decisions are fair and just improved in tandem.
  • When employees feel that symmetrical communication and organizational justice are strong (which are both positively influenced by diversity-oriented leadership), they were more likely to be strongly engaged at work and advocate on behalf of their employer, such as speaking positively about their organization to others.

Implications for practice
Organizations should be aware that while strategically designed DEI programs are necessary to address particular issues (e.g., recruitment), a broader and more thorough effort from corporate leaders’ behaviors is imperative for improving workplace inclusion and diversity. Organizations should also practice symmetrical internal communication to enhance diversity management, and make sure that internal communication proactively addresses issues related to organizational equality and justice to improve racial minority employees’ engagement and advocacy.

Diversity-oriented leadership, internal communication, and employee outcomes: a perspective of racial minority employees — Journal of Public Relations Research


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