Organizational Behavior Homework (Article Summary)

Organizational Behavior Homework (Article Summary)

Article Summary

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Invisible men and women: A status report on race as a variable in organization behavior research’

TAYLOR COX, Jr. Graduate School of Business Administration, The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109. U.S.A.


STELLA M. NKOMO Department of Management, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, NC 28223, U.S.A.

Summary Twenty-five years after passage of the Civil Rights Act, the full integration of racial minorities in the Unites States workforce has still not been achieved. Recent demographic trends indicating that the workforce will be increasingly composed of racial minorities make this a critical issue for academics and practitioners alike. This paper reports on a review of journal research addressing issues of race in organizations. Articles published in twenty major outlets for organization behavior research between 1964 and 1989 were reviewed. Data on the quantity, types and topics of published work are presented. Results indicate that the amount of total published research is small relative to the importance of the topic, that the recent trend is for less rather than more research, that the designs and research questions have been very narrow, and that the topics covered are not representative of the domain of organization behavior. Based upon the findings, some suggestions for future research are offered.


Twenty-five years have passed since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This legislation contributed to significant changes in the composition of the workforce and provided a major impetus for academic researchers in management and related fields to study racial issues in the workplace. Moreover, demographic trends indicate that the United States workforce will be increasingly racially diverse in the years ahead (Nussbaum, 1988; Fullerton, 1987). By the year 2000 the overall United States population will change such that one of every three Americans will be non-white (Hodgkinson, 1985). The Workforce 2000 report identifies full integration of minorities into the workforce as one of the six greatest challenges facing American managers in the coming decade (Johnston and Packer, 1987).

Despite these trends, it is not clear that research related to understanding the impact of racial heterogeneity on organizations has been forthcoming. A few writers have published partial

An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Career Division Workshop of the 1988 Academy of Management Meeting. We are grateful to Clayton Alderfer and David Thomas for their suggestions in revising the manuscript.

0894-3796/90/060419-13$06.50 © 1990 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

420 T. COX Jr. AND S. M. NKOMO

reviews of completed research on the impact of race in organizations. A limited review was done more than a decade ago by Bartol, Evans and Stith (1978). Their research reviewed the literature pertaining to black-white differences in leadership behavior and potential, job perform- ance, and job satisfaction and attitudes. Also, Ford (1976) has published a collection of note- worthy articles on race effects in organizations. His book is unique in the breadth of topics for which academic research is reported. Finally, Murphy (1973) pointed out the paucity of research on black workers found in the field of organization behavior and the general neglect of race as a variable in the published research.

These early efforts made important contributions, however they were not sufficiently compre- hensive to provide a good status report on the research on race in organization behavior and are now somewhat outdated. It therefore seems timely to take stock of the research that has been done in the organization behavior and human resource management (OBHRM) field explicitly focusing on race as an important variable. Some of the questions we wished to address were: How much research has been done since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964? What trends, if any, can be identified in the quantity and type of research? What research questions have been addressed? What research topics have been emphasized? Which racial groups have been studied? Generally, what has been learned about the experiences of racial minorities in organizations?

This paper reviews the literature published on the impact of race in organizations and provides a description of the frequency and nature of the research published in 20 leading academic journals between 1964 and 1989. In conducting the review, our intent was to provide a comprehensive picture of the quantity and type of research rather than a detailed account of specific findings. Based on our analysis of the literature, suggestions for future research will be offered.


Study pool

Twenty well-known academic journals were identified for the review using the following criteria: (1) their major focus was topics in OBHRM (2) they were refereed by external reviewers; (3) their readership was at least 3000; and (4) they were read by an academic audience. Cabell’s Directory of Publishing Opportunities in Business Administration and Economics (Cabell, 1986) was used to compile a list of journals publishing articles in the specified domain. The other criteria were checked by reviewing the full descriptions given for each journal in the Directory and by checking the information for contributors provided in the journals. Table 1 lists the journals meeting the four criteria.

Next, articles with race as a major focus of study were found through a computerized library search using the Abstracted Business Information Database of Data Courier Inc.̂ The search covered the period from 1971 through 1986 and was conducted using the following key descrip- tors: blacks, race/s, ethnic, racial discrimination, minorities, Hispanics, Asians, race relations, native Americans, affirmative action and Negro. These key words were searched in both titles

^ ABI contains abstracts of business articles from more than 660 leading business and management publications in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia and Japan. It is one of the leading sources for on-line business and management information worldwide. The service started in 1971 and this is the reason it was not used for the 1964-1970 period.


Table 1. List of journals selected for review and number of publications


Academy of Management Journal Academy of Management Review Administrative Science Quarterly American Journal of Psychology American Journal of Sociology California Management Review Decision Sciences Human Relations Industrial and Labor Relations Review Journal of Applied Behavioral Science Journal of Applied Psychology Journal of Business Journal of Management Studies Journal of Occupational Psychology Management Science Organization Behavior and Human Decision Process Personnel Psychology Public Personnel Management Social Forces Social Science Quarterly



16 0 1 0 3 2 1 5

17 4

53 1 2 1 0 4

22 9 4 0



2 2 2 0 0 7 0 0 6 3 6 0 0 0 1 0

10 17 0 0



18 2 3 0 3 9 1 5

23 7

59 1 2 1 1 4

32 26 4 0


and descriptions of the articles. For the periods of 1964-1970 and 1987-1989, we manually reviewed the tables of contents of the 20 journals to locate relevant articles. We also used the same procedure for the 1972-1986 period for four of the journals which were not referenced by the search service (Social Forces, American Journal of Psychology, American Journal of Sociology, and Social Science Quarterly), and for those journals that had not been consistently abstracted by the service over the entire time period. Additionally, we examined the reference sections of major studies and literature review papers for any works we had omitted. Articles were further screened to exclude those outside the domain of OBHRM. A total of 201 articles were identified for the study. A bibliography of the articles is available from the first author.

Taxonomy of articles

Each of the articles was reviewed and classified using several categories: empirical versus non- empirical, sample size, racial groups represented, topic and major findings. An article was classi- fied as empirical if it reported original data and analysis of data. Articles which only presented arguments or theory, or simply reviewed other articles which had data were classified as non- empirical.

The sorting of studies into topics representing the domain of OBHRM was somewhat prob- lematic. We agree with Cummings (1978) that the distinction in topic domain between OB and HRM is ambiguous such that attempts to set domain boundaries are largely arbitrary. Consequently, we combined the areas specified in the Academy of Management Personnel/ Human Resource Management Division’s domain statement with topics identified through a

422 T. COX Jr. AND S. M. NKOMO

review of the tables of contents of several major texts on organizational behavior (Hampton, Summer and Webber, 1987; Gibson, Ivancevich and Donnelly, 1985; Cohen, Fink, Gadon and Willits, 1984). This resulted in 20 categories as follows: (1) career planning and development; (2) communication; (3) compensation and reward systems; (4) conflict resolution; (5) decision- making; (6) equal opportunity and affirmative action; (7) employee discipline; (8) group dynamics; (9) job design; (10) job attitudes and satisfaction; (11) labor relations; (12) leadership; (13) motivation; (14) organization change and development; (15) perception; (16) performance evaluation; (17) power and influence; (18) stafl[ing: hiring; (19) staflSng: test validation; (20) staffing: promotion.


Quantity, type and location of articles

Table 1 shows the total number of articles published with a breakdown by journal and by type of article (empirical or non-empirical). As mentioned, a total of 201 articles addressing OBHRM topics focusing specifically on race or minority group effects were identified for the 25-year period between 1964 and 1989. As one indicator of the proportional treatment of race compared to other topics, we conducted an ABI computer search for the period 1971-1989 for the topics of international management, age and older workers and gender/women-in- management. We found that of 11804 articles published, in the same 16 journals used for the ABI search on race, there were 313 articles published on international OB, 426 articles published on age issues and 1306 articles published on gender issues. Therefore the attention given each of these other three areas in just 18 years over 16 journals far exceeds the amount of published work on race in 25 years over the full 20 journals. We conclude that the major outlets for OBHRM research do not contain a significant research base for understanding race in organizations.

It is not clear from our research why relatively few articles on race have been published in the major OBHRM academic journals. Information on this question would be useful to the goal of increased productivity and scholarship in this area. Some of the possibilities are: (1) few researchers are working in this area so few papers are submitted to these journals for consideration; (2) research in this area has been relatively poor quality; (3) reviewers and editors of these journals do not consider the topic important or employ biases which inadvertently work against publication of papers on race; (4) researchers interested in this area are dispropor- tionately represented at institutions with comparatively low levels of support for research making it difficult for them to compete for the limited space in the top journals of the field; (5) there are only a Small number of minority scholars in the OBHRM field (who are perhaps more likely to have a research interest in this area); (6) doctoral students may not be encouraged to explore race as a relevant topic area or variable. We are not aware of any systematic data as to which, if any, of these possibilities are actually occurring, or of their comparative priority of impact. However, evidence of items 1 and 6 and discussion of item 3 is presented in a recent paper by Cox (1990) which summarizes feedback from a sample of writers and journal editors on the subject of obstacles to race research. In addition, the selection of research topics by scholars is affected by institutional tenure systems often requiring scholarship in ‘mainstream’ areas. Mainstream is often defined as traditional topics within the field of study. Topics outside of that domain may consequently be viewed as less significant and, therefore, less likely to


make a substantial contribution to the field. Researchers may be reluctant to focus primarily on race research because they believe it may jeopardize their ability to gain tenure.

In addition to the total quantity of articles, time trends should be noted. The time trends of publication are disturbing: during the 1960s the average number of articles per year was 3.5 increasing to 11.7 per year during the 1970s and tailing off to 6.3 per year in the 1980s. Moreover productivity has been extremely low during the past five years, averaging only 3.6 articles per year from 1985-1989.

The findings and conclusions on the quantity of research are similar to those reported in recent annual reviews of research on vocational behavior and career development. In reviewing the research published in 1983, Tinsley and Heesacker (1984) found only six investigations in which the central focus was on the career development of minority groups. Subsequent reviews of the 1984, 1985 and 1986 literatures (Borgen, Layton, Veenhuizen and Johnson 1985; Greenhaus and Parasuraman, 1986; Russell, 1987) revealed similar numbers. Publication trends during the 1960s-1980s parallel certain societal events. Although the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, the full impact of the legislation was not felt in organizations until the 1970s with the passage of Title VII and the occurrence of several landmark court cases most notably Griggs versus Duke Power Company. The net outcome of the court cases was that employment practices having unequal impact on different race groups was illegal under Title VII unless employers could demonstrate job relatedness. Organizations now had to establish the validity and reliability of personnel systems, particularly in the area of hiring and promotion. This requirement spurred a good deal of academic research to test and identify methods of validating selection instruments and to measure “unequal impact’ The advent of the Reagan administration in 1980 led to less emphasis on equal employment opportunity during the ensuing eight years and a perception that racial integration in the workplace was no longer a pressing issue (Kinloch, 1982).

Shifting attention now to the matter of where the articles were published. Table 1 shows that the distribution of publications across the 20 journals was highly skewed. Nearly half of the articles appeared in just two of the 20 journals. Journal of Applied Psychology and Personnel Psychology. Moreover, for two of the 20 journals the review revealed no articles, and for 10 others, fewer than five articles addressing race effects on OBHRM topics were found. For the entire 25-year period, 70 per cent of all articles on race issues appeared in just four journals: Journal of Applied Psychology, Personnel Psychology, Industrial Relations and Labor Review, and Public Personnel Management.

The reason for this pattern of publication sources is not clear. Editorial policy may make articles on racial issues more appropriate for some journals compared to certain others (such as Management Science). Also the content of three of the above four journals focuses on personnel and,human resource management issues, and the passage of Title VII made equal employment/ affirmative action and related issues a formalized part of the defined domain (Mahoney and Deckop, 1986). However this explanation is, at best, a partial one. It does not, for example, shed light on why The Journal of Applied Psychology has published 59 articles while Human Relations and Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes have published only five and four respectively. It is possible that the concentrated distribution results from differential rates of submission by researchers to the four journals cited; however, we have no information on the distribution of topics on papers submitted to the 20 journals.

Finally, Table 1 shows that the vast majority of the articles (71 per cent) were empirical studies. However, many of these studies summarized survey data and presented very limited theoretical arguments. In addition, most of the research was exploratory and did not present hypotheses. These facts, and the relatively small number of conceptual articles (qualitative

424 T. COX Jr. AND S. M. NKOMO

Table 2. Sample characteristics for empirical studies reviewed

(a) Racial composition (N = 140)

Black and whites Blacks/whites/Hispanics Hispanics/whites Blacks Hispanics All others

(b) Sample size (AT = 128) Range 4-27958

(c) Type of organization {N = 132)

Public Private Both

(d) Level of job (Â = 139)

Management Non-management Both Professional Students

(e) Type ofjobs(Af= 127)

Blue-collar White-collar Both

Number of studies 94 14 1 6 2


Mean 1088.25

Number 43 85 4

Number 13 58 25 31 12

Number 39 78 10

Percentage 67 1 10.0 0.7 4.3 1.4


Standard deviation Median 3364.64 211.5

Percentage 32.6 64.4 3.0

Percentage 9.4

41.7 18.0 22.3 8.6

Percentage 30.7 61.4 7.9

papers presenting in-depth theoretical arguments) led us to conclude that papers presenting well-developed theoretical arguments and epistemological discussions of race effects are rare.

Who gets studied

Data summarized in Table 2 on sample characteristics of the empirical studies includes infor- mation on racial composition, sample size, type of organization and job types. Each will be briefly discussed.

A most striking finding of Table 2 is that only 40 articles were published which addressed racial groups other than blacks and whites. Although we cannot lose sight of the fact that all minorities are understudied, one must also note that minority groups other than blacks are being almost totally ignored. For example, Hispanics, who make up 7.2 per cent of the United States population, and by some accounts are experiencing the fastest rate of growth of all minority groups in the United States, have been included in only 17 of the published articles reviewed in this study. Some of the discrepancy is no doubt due to the fact that propor- tionately fewer Hispanics, compared to blacks, have positions in mainstream corporate America. Hispanics currently represent 2.6 per cent of managerial and professional employees compared to 5.6 per cent for blacks (Statistical Abstracts, 1987; Handbook of Labor Statistics, 1985).

Another noteworthy feature of Table 2 is that it suggests the importance of having white comparison groups in the research design. In the 25-year period only eight studies were published


which reported on a single racial group. While obtaining comparison samples is often difficult, these data indicate that it may be critically important to the probability of publication. This issue is discussed at length in a recent paper by Cox (1990). He argues that the insistence on comparative research designs is an inappropriate constraint on the publication of race research.

For the 128 empirical studies reporting sample size, the mean was over 1000 subjects (1088.2) but the median was much lower at 211.5. Since the mean is greatly affected by the large outliers in the data the median is a better descriptive statistic here. A sample size of 211 is considered small by modern standards. For example, the 10 studies published in the Academy of Management Journal in the year ended September, 1988, with individual respondents as the unit of analysis, had a median sample size of 344 subjects. We conclude that the difficulty of obtaining large samples on racial minorities, especially among management personnel, may be a noteworthy hindrance to publication in this topic area. We suggest that editors and reviewers respond to this problem by greater sensitivity in the review process to the difficulty of achieving large samples, and by more receptivity to unconventional research designs. Examples of the latter include the qualitative research methods used by Bell (1990) and by Denton (1990), in which relatively few respondents are studied in depth; and the life-history methodology as explained by Morgan (1983).

Data on the type of occupational positions studied (Table 2, c, d and e) indicate that the private sector has been studied almost twice as often as the public sector, and that white-collar workers have been favored two to one over blue-collar. Relatively few studies have looked specifically at minority management personnel. Only 13 studies (9.4 per cent) focused on manage- ment positions. In the 1960s and early 1970s this could be explained on the basis that the number of minorities in such positions was so small as to preclude development of a sample. While minorities are still greatly underrepresented in management ranks, the situation has improved enough so that the study of minority managers is feasible.

What has been studied

Table 3 summarizes the article topics and whether significant race effects were found in the empirical studies. Articles were classified into the 20 topic areas defined earlier on the basis of the primary variable the writers sought to explain. For empirical studies which tested hypotheses the primary variable was the main dependent variable of the theory tested. For exploratory and conceptual papers, statements of purpose were analyzed to determine the organizational issue or variable on which authors were discussing the impact of racial differences. In order to avoid confusion in interpretation of the data distribution, no article was counted in more than one topic category. In those cases where papers addressed race effects on multiple variables or events, we made a judgment as to the primary aim of the research. This was usually straightforward; however, in a few cases (such as Bartol et al, 1978) the classification was somewhat arbitrary.

Several salient findings are indicated in Table 3. First, coverage of topics is very uneven with the impact of race on some topics getting no attention at all. No relevant articles were found for three of the topics: employee discipline, decision-making, and organization change. Eight of the 20 topics addressed have been the subject of fewer than five articles: compensation, labor relations, power and influence, interpersonal communication, job design, conflict resolu- tion, group dynamics, and perception. Topics receiving relatively high levels of attention include staffing: test validation (26 articles) and staffing: hiring (34 articles), equal employment oppor- tunity/affirmative action (46 articles) and performance evaluation (21 articles). These results may reflect the general preoccupation of researchers with traditional subject areas. Campbell,

426 T. COX Jr. AND S. M. NKOMO

Table 3. Number of publications and percentage showing race effects by topic


1. Career planning development 2. Communication 3. Compensation 4. Conflict resolution 5. Decision-making 6. EEO/affirmative action 7. Employee discipline 8. Group dynamics 9. Job design

10. Job attitudes and satisfaction 11. Labor relations 12. Leadership 13. Motivation, needs values 14. Organization change/development 15. Perception 16. Performance evaluation 17. Power and influence 18. Staffing: hiring 19. Staffing: test validation 20. Staffing: promotion


6 2 2 1 0

13 0 1 1

18 2

10 13 0 4

20 2

27 16 7

(4.1)* (1.4) (1.4) (0.7)


(0.7) (0.7)

(12.4) (1.4) (6.9) (9.0)

(2.8) (13.8) (1.4)

(18.6) (11.0) (4.8)


0 1 0 0 0

33 0 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 7

10 0




(1.8) (1.8)


(12.7) (18.2)

6 3 2 1 0

46 0 2 1

18 2

11 14 0 4

21 2

34 26



(3.0) (1.5) (1.0) (0.5)


(1.0) (0.5) (9.0) (1.0) (5.5) (7.0)

(2.0) (10.5) (1.0)

(17.0) (13.0) (3.5)

Race effect percentage

66.7 50.0

100.0 0.0

— 92.0 — 0.0 0.0

83.3 100.0 100.0 69.2 — 50.0 55.0

100.0 85.2 64.3 71.4

• Parenthesized number is the percentage of total articles in this topic area.

Daft, and Hulin (1982) in their survey of research published from 1977-1979 in Journal of Applied Psychology, Personnel Psychology, Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, Academy of Management Journal, and Administrative Science Quarterly, found that the largest number of studies were done in the areas of selection and placement (the staffing topic).

It is also instructive to note the typical questions addressed by researchers within the most frequent content areas mentioned above. For example, research on performance evaluation tended to focus on one question: Does the race of the rater and ratee influence the level of variance of performance ratings? The typical question asked in the area of staffing was: Are selection tests equally valid for blacks and whites? The point here is that despite a relatively large number of studies in these topic areas compared to other areas, the actual research scope was quite limited, with repeated emphasis on the same question. This does not deny the import- ance of the two questions cited above, but rather points out the narrowness of our knowledge about race in organizations even for the high frequency topics.

Another important issue in this context is whether or not the research that has been done has found race to have an impact on organizational behavior. Computations based on Table 3 indicate that significant race effects were found in 71 per cent of the empirical studies. Moreover, the percentage of studies showing race effects was at least 50 per cent for every topic addressed by at least two empirical papers. Among the topics addressed by five or more studies, those showing the highest incidence of race effects are staffing: hiring (85 per cent), leadership (100 per cent) and job attitudes and satisfaction (83 per cent). While the total number of studies is relatively small, and we are not aware of any standards for typical percentage of significant effects in the field, the high percentage of race effects reported in Table 3 seems to strongly support the conclusion of Bartol et al. (1978) that race effects occur on a wide variety of manage- ment issues. However, as previously noted, many of the empirical studies are largely void of theories or models for understanding racial differences. Finding differences is a start, but has


limited utility unless we can explain why differences exist and what their implications are for management practice.

Conclusions and directions for future research

Our main purpose has been to review the journal literature on race in the OBHRM domain and provide some elementary analyses of the quantity and characteristics of this literature. A second purpose was to identify directions for future research suggested by our view. Toward the latter objective, we identify here several conclusions and implications formed from our review of the content of the articles.

The amount of research being done by organizational theorists on race and ethnicity belies the importance of these factors in the workplace. There is a great need for theory development and empirical work around race differences as they relate to virtually all areas of the OBHRM domain. Despite 25 years under the stimulus of Title VII to do research on race effects, there are few areas of organizational experience about which we can speak with confidence about the impact of race and racial diversity. In addition to a general lack of researcher attention, the development of research in this area has been hindered by research questions that are two simplistic, by an absence of theories of race effects and by the types of research designs employed. Each of these will be briefly discussed.

Research questions

Our review points to pervasive problems with the types of questions asked in the past. Within the topics that have received considerable attention, researchers have tended to focus on uncover- ing evidence of overt discrimination in organizations rather than on viewing race as a complex variable which is deeply ingrained in the social fabric of our society and its organizations. The major question underlying most of the research of the past has been: are there main effects of racial group on the criterion variable of interest? If no obvious main effects were found, the researcher typically concluded that race was not an important variable and that, indeed, OBHRM theories are applicable to all employee race groups. Relatively little has been written about why no differences were found, and, in cases where differences were found, there is often little theoretical explanation given for the differences. This shallowness of explanation of race effects in the discussions of research results, may reflect shortcomings earlier on in the research cycle. A preponderance of the studies we reviewed used research designs in which an organization-behavior construct was studied and an instrument to measure that construct was administered to a majority group and a minority group to test for differences between them. While the major objective was obstensibly to explicate race effects, the failure in many studies, to offer clear, a priori, explanations of why the results were expected raises the suspicion that this type of research is often little more than a demographic split of a data set. Upon closer examination, the interest in race often seems ancillary rather than the focal point of the research. This brings us to the matter of theory construction.


One example of a promising theoretical framework is the intergroup relations theory (Alderfer, Alderfer, Tucker and Tucker, 1980; Alderfer and Smith, 1982). They argue that relations among identity groups and among organizational groups are shaped by how these groups and their

428 T. COX Jr. AND S. M. NKOMO

representatives are embedded in the organization and by how the organization is embedded in its environment. The concept of an embedded group may prove useful to explain the dynamics within racial groups as well as intergroup transactions among diverse racial and ethnic groups.

Other streams of theory in the OBHRM literature that we believe hold particular promise for theory construction on race effects are attribution theory, organizational socialization and organization culture. Work on attribution theory has shown that attributions about individual efficacy are influenced by such personal characteristics as age (Schwab and Heneman, 1978) and gender (Heilman and Guzzo, 1978; DeAux and Emswiller, 1974). For example, DeAux and Emswiller (1974) found that personal achievements are more likely to be attributed to skill for men than for women. We suggest that scholars give thought to similar theories in which race or ethnicity is used as a moderator of attributions.

Organizational socialization deals with methods of conforming new entrants to organizations to prevailing norms and values. We need to look at how this process may differ for members of different racial and ethnic groups. For example, evidence from practitioners suggests that the time required for socialization to take place varies as a function of both race and gender (Copeland, 1988, p. 45).

Discussions of organization culture deal with issues of acculturation and assimilation of organizational members. Existing work on mergers of organization with different kinds of cul- tures may be useful in framing theory in the race and ethnic group area. For example, Nahavandi and Malekzadeh’s (1988) recent theory of merger/acquisition models offers parallels for the mixing of majority and minority cultures among members of pluralistic organizations.

A final suggestion regarding future theory constructions is that it should give more attention to the intersection of race and gender. Very few of the studies we reviewed did so, but research which has appeared in other sources suggests that organizational experiences of minority males and minority females may differ in significant ways. For example, Fernandez (1981) in his study of racism and sexism in corporations found that black women are more sensitive to racism than black men because of the gender discrimination they experience. Alderfer et al. (1980) found that the perceptions of white female managers were more similar to those of white male managers than to those of black female managers, and our own research indicates that there may be differences between black men and black women in the factors determining upward mobility rates (Nkomo and Cox, 1989). Thus there is a need for theory and research which addresses race-gender combinations as well as cross-race combinations. An example of such research is the recent work by David Thomas (1990) on mentoring which appears in this issue.

Research design

One design issue concerns the racial composition of research samples. We have largely taken a myopic view of race, emphasizing black-white comparisons. There is therefore a need for studies addressing minority groups other than blacks and for multiracial group studies which include more than two groups. Organizational experiences often differ across minority groups. For example, while both blacks and Asians are often victims of stereotyping, the form differs significantly. Fernandez (1981) found that Asians are often viewed by whites as intelligent, industrious, and nonresistant leading to positive stereotyping whereas white’s images and stereo- types of blacks are often in more negative terms such as lazy, dumb or slow. In the same study, Fernandez reports that 48 per cent of Hispanics and 57 per cent of Asians believed that minority managers face no problems of exclusion from informal and social activities in white-majority organizations. By comparison, only 16 per cent of black managers saw no prob- lems of this type.


A second design issue concerns how the term race itself is defined and measured. From an anthropological perspective, the term race stands for major divisions of humankind with distinctive hereditary and transmissible physical characteristics (Vidyarthi, 1983). Alternatively, an ethnic group is one that shares a common cultural tradition and a sense of identity. While physical and cultural identities often overlap, sometimes they do not (Alba and Chamlin, 1983). Nevertheless, nearly all of the OBHRM literature on race treats these distinct dimensions of group identity as though there were 100 per cent overlap. The problem is further complicated by tendencies to use the term race when referring to blacks and whites and ethnicity to refer to Hispanics and Asians. This use of terms erroneously implies that only blacks and whites have distinct physical traits and only Hispanics and Asians have distinct cultural traits.

The related point to be made regarding the measurement of race is that if one employs the anthropological definition of race it is appropriate to measure it as a categorical variable (as has been done in the past), but if one has interest in the cultural significance of race the use of nominal measurement scales is inappropriate. This is due to mounting evidence that the levels of minority cultural-group identity among members of the same racial group vary greatly (Wong-Rieger and Quintana, 1987; Montgomery and Orozco, 1984; Broman, Neighbors and Jackson, 1988). Thus it is important to measure race in a way that is consistent with the research objective. We believe that the failure to recognize these distinctions represents a major cause of inconsistency in research findings on race in the past.

While this paper has reviewed the literature on race as a variable in the main academic journals focusing on organizational behavior and human resource management, it should be noted that a number of important contributions to this area of study have been published recently as books (such as Fernandez, 1975, 1981; America and Anderson, 1978; Davis and Watson, 1982; Dickens and Dickens, 1982; Work, 1984; Irons and Moore, 1985). These books offer useful descriptions of the particular circumstances and experiences of minorities in organiza- tions. Fernandez (1981), in a comprehensive study of over 4000 managers, powerfully delineates the complex impact of racism and sexism in the corporate workplace. Work (1984) offers an empirical analysis of black employment in the internal labor market of a single corporation. The perceptions of workplace realities that affect the progress of black managers in the banking industry are documented by Irons and Moore (1985). Dickens and Dickens (1982) present a four-phase developmental model of the black manager’s career. It is worth noting that scholar- ship on race seems to have reversed the more typical pattern of new developments appearing first in journals and later in books. We will not speculate on the reasons for this reversal, but do want to underscore the importance of publication of OBHRM scholarship on race in the mainstream academic journals of the field. To the extent that this work is not well represented in the major journals, the attraction of top scholars to the subject is hindered and the likelihood that knowledge will be disseminated in the classrooms of our leading univer- sities is reduced.

In closing, we wish to acknowledge that, despite meticulous efforts to avoid errors in classifying and identifying relevant articles, it is possible that some errors or omissions may have occurred. We do feel, however, that such errors are few and have confidence that the major trends and observations reported here are accurate. We conclude that Murphy s (1973) description of the ‘invisibility of race’ in published research on organization behavior continues to be reasonably accurate. We hope that this summary of trends in academic research on race in organizations and the suggestions offered will stimulate greater attention to this area by scholars, and assist in identifying directions for moving forward with this important work.

430 T. COX Jr. AND S. M. NKOMO


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Alderfer, C. P., Alderfer, C , Tucker, L. and Tucker, R. (1980). ‘Diagnosing race relations in management’. Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 16, 135-166.

Alderfer, C. P and Smith, K. K. (1982). ‘Studying intergroup relations embedded in organizations’. Administrative Science Quarterly, 27, 35-65.

American, R. F. and Anderson, R. (1978). Moving Ahead: Black managers in American Business, McGraw- Hill, New York.

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