Inclusion has emerged as a central concept in the practice of creating a diverse 21st century workforce. However, the body of empirical research employing inclusion as a focal concept or variable is surprisingly small, considering the popularity of the concept in management practice. Thus, the objective of this dissertation is to develop a theory of organizational inclusion that addresses the working level of day-to-day interactions. The resulting theory of inclusion in work organizations highlights relationships between three key dynamics of inclusion: inclusion-exclusion dynamics, strategies of integration and power.
The study consisted of case studies of departments within two different knowledge intensive work organizations. The work of the departments involved research, teaching, training, and consulting. Both departments were visibly diverse in terms of gender, age, and ethnicity. I conducted an analysis of 45 interviews, notes from on site observations and data collected from archival and published sources. I employed both narrative and coding strategies in the analysis of the data.
I found that individuals and organizational in-groups employ three types of integration strategies: assimilation, pluralistic integration, and separation. Use of these strategies depends on the salience of individual personal or social identities and shared in-group identities. Participants’ conceptions of the shared in-group identities influence inclusive or exclusive interactions within organizations. These interactions move participants closer to or away from shared in-group identities and may prompt changes in integration strategies. The match between individual strategies and organizational strategies of integration appear to relate to whether and how organizational members employ or respond to power.
The theory expands the concept of organizational inclusion to include the nature of interactions that individuals experience and power relations within a work organization. The theory also relates multiple forms of power an individual exercises to how they are included through one or more strategies of integration.
The findings and theory point to opportunities for further research exploring the relationship between inclusion dynamics and concepts such as self-monitoring, and social identity complexity. These later concepts have been implicated in diversity research but not directly related to inclusion in work organizations.
Keywords. inclusion, power, qualitative methods, identity, diversity.