First Advisor

Devorah A. Lieberman

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Speech Communication


Speech Communication




Minorities -- Employment -- United States, Organizational change -- United States, Multiculturalism -- United States, Diversity in the workplace



Physical Description

1 online resource (2, vi, 114 p.)


Cultural diversity in the United States is an issue of concern and organizations must now learn to function effectively with an increasingly diverse workforce. Since the history of U.S. organizations is a history of institutional discrimination against most ethnic and racial groups of people and the privileging of a dominant group, managing workforce diversity now constitutes one of the most difficult and important issues human resource professionals address. This study is concerned with the issues of workforce diversity, most specifically with how organizational members understand and respond to discrimination, and the utilization of this understanding to discuss implications for diversity trainers. The study analyzed data from a workshop questionnaire administered to individuals who participated in a specific organization-wide diversity training program. Self-reported critical incidents were used in gathering data about organizational members' perceptions and understandings around discrimination. An analysis of short answer self-reported responses was conducted, followed by a analysis of themes by age, ethnicity and gender. Emergent themes suggest that most organizational members encountered discriminatory incidents in the context of ongoing relationships, suggesting that it would be important for members to consider their responses in light of future consequences for the relationship. Since there are power dimensions inherent in many situations and there is a dominant cultural perception that conflict is destructive to relationships, responding to discriminatory situations may be perceived as a very high risk behavior. Many participants had difficulty responding assertively at the time of the incident and reported feeling uncomfortable, angry, hurt, embarrassed or sad about the incident. Even after thinking about it, most were still limited in their ability to think of alternative responses. Since most discriminatory incidents occurred in the context of ongoing relationships, diversity trainers and organizations may need to include a discussion of the power dimensions involved in addressing discrimination as well as address the overall U.S. cultural perception that conflict can only damage relationships. Diversity trainers as well as organizations may want to help their members frame conflict as opportunity for relationship development and discriminatory incidents as opportunity for learning.


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