The influence of employee perceptions of organizational diversity practices on employee behavior

Reviewed by Roderick Taylor

This authors examine how employees’ views on an organization’s ethical approach to diversity influence their behavior and their perceptions of their ethical virtue.


In the past, organizations often prioritized diversity as a result of legal implications or due to perceived business advantages. Recently, there has been a shift. Now, organizations increasingly view diversity through an ethical lens; it is an organization’s ethical responsibility to treat its employees fairly and create a welcoming environment for everyone. 

This report delves into the inclusion and organizational ethics literature to explore the relationship between employees’ views of their organization’s approach to integrating and learning from diversity and two key employee outcomes: (1) organizational citizenship behavior and (2) interpersonal workplace deviance.

Tanja Rabl is a Chair of Human Resource Management, Leadership, and Organization at Technische Universität Kaiserslautern. María del Carmen Triana is the Cal Turner Center Chair, Professor of Management at Vanderbilt University. Seo-Young Byun is an Assistant Professor of Management at Ball State University. Laura Bosch is a Chair of Human Resource Management, Leadership, and Organization at Technische Universität Kaiserslautern.

Methods and Findings

The study was carried out in both the United States and Germany, which allowed  for a comparative analysis of diversity management perceptions across countries. The research took place over different periods, with the U.S. study conducted in 2014 and the German study in the first quarter of 2015. 

The study employed a two stage, online survey data collection method. In the first stage, employees responded to questions regarding their perceptions of: (1) an organizational integration and learning approach to diversity and (2) their personal value for diversity. During the second phase, which was conducted a month later, the same employees provided details on their perceptions of the organization’s ethical virtue (including how the organization treats employees and whether it fosters a supportive environment), their engagement in organizational citizenship behavior directed towards their company (e.g, attending optional events that help the organizational image) , and instances of interpersonal workplace deviance (actions such as harassment and bullying). To bolster the study’s reliability and reduce biases (e.g., social desirability bias where employees might report themselves in a more favorable light) that are commonly associated with survey-based research, a paired participant who knew the employee well also completed a similar survey where the employee is the focus (e.g., the survey asked the paired participant if the employee exhibited organizational citizenship behavior). By obtaining perspectives from someone other than the employee, the study aimed to gather a more objective view of the employee’s behaviors and attitudes, and help reduce confirmation bias.

Key insights of the report include: 

  • Organizational Integration and Learning Approach to Diversity. Employees often see positive outcomes, like increased innovation and customer satisfaction,  when companies use strategies that embrace diversity and encourage learning, including fostering inclusion and utilizing diverse perspectives.
  • Perceptions of Organizational Ethical Virtue. Employees tend to view their organization as more ethically virtuous when they believe it has a positive approach to diversity. Furthermore, employees that highly value diversity strongly associate an organization’s diversity approach with its ethical virtue. 
  • Impact on Organizational Citizenship and Deviant Workplace Behavior. When a company’s ethical culture is shaped by good diversity management, it leads to an increase in  positive behavior from employees towards the organization, which in turn results in less harmful behaviors at work, such as bullying and harassment.  


The findings show that when employees view their company as both ethical and dedicated to diversity, it has a positive effect on their work behavior. They become more inclined to support the organization and less likely to participate in deviant workplace behaviors while at work. In addition, employees who personally place a high value on diversity respond even more positively to organizational diversity efforts.


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