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Improving Workplace Climate

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Improving Workplace Climate

This is one of several short essays that were prepared as a set of resources during the original ADVANCE grant period. The essay, written by Violet Xu, introduces some of the key issuess related to climate for diversity and inclusion.


What is meant by "climate for diversity/inclusion"?


A positive climate for diversity/inclusion refers to the degree to which there is an organizational climate in which human resource diversity is valued and in which employees from diverse backgrounds feel welcomed and included (Cox, 1994; McKay, Avery, & Morris, 2008). Employees share the perceptions that the employer utilizes fair personnel practices and socially integrates underrepresented employees into the work environment (McKay et al., 2008).

What organizational and individual outcomes are associated with climate for diversity?


At the individual level, the outcomes associated with diversity climate are mostly related to satisfaction and commitment (Bowman, & Denson, 2014). A positive climate for diversity leads to higher employee job satisfaction and organizational commitment. Employees also demonstrate better career development when the climate is inclusive and supportive (e.g., Price, Powe, Kern, Golden, Wand, & Cooper 2005). A satisfied and committed workforce leads to several benefits for the organization, such as less strife, positive feelings, cooperation, and productivity (Sliter, Boyd, Sinclair, Cheung, & McFadden, 2014). When diversity is valued there may be less turnover and therefore, lower costs for recruitment to replace those who would have left (Price et al., 2005).

For more information, please consult these selected references. 

This is one of several short essays that were prepared as a set of resources during the original ADVANCE grant period. The essay, written by Samantha January, introduces some of the key issuess related to incivility and microaggresions.


What are they?


Incivility/microaggressions represent subtle forms of interpersonal discrimination. In contrast to formal discrimination, which is characterized by overtly discriminatory behavior, interpersonal discrimination is conveyed through seemingly innocuous actions but may still represent more formal negative attitudes (Cortina, 2008; Sue, 2010).

Andersson and Pearson (1999) define incivility that occurs in the workplace as “low intensity deviant behavior with ambiguous intent to harm the target, in violation of workplace norms for mutual respect. Uncivil behaviors are characteristically rude and discourteous, displaying a lack of regard for others” (p. 457). Examples of workplace incivility include interrupting others, speaking to others in a condescending manner, talking behind others backs, and undermining someone’s credibility in front of others.  Cortina (2008) proposed that there is a more specific type of incivility, termed selective incivility, which is directed at women and people of color. Because uncivil interpersonal behavior appears harmless, perpetrators can mask their discriminatory attitudes toward women and people of color behind these acts with few repercussions.

Microaggressions are everyday verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities that communicate negative attitudes toward members of oppressed groups (Sue, 2007, 2010).  Like incivility, microaggressive behavior is covert and perpetrators often do not intend to offend others and may be unaware that they may be causing harm. There are three types of microaggressions: microassaults (explicit attacks intended to harm the victim), microinvalidations (behavior that minimizes the feelings, experiences, or thoughts of a person), and microinsults (unconscious or unintentional insensitive behavior that is inconsiderate and demeaning of a person’s identity). Gender microaggressions can be harmful because they insinuate that women are inferior to men.

What are the consequences for targets?

Being the direct target of incivility can lead to a myriad of negative outcomes including increased anxiety, stress, and depression (Adam & Webster, 2013; Cortina et al., 2001; Lim & Cortina, 2005; Miner et al., 2010), lowered organizational commitment and job satisfaction (Cortina et al., 2001; Lim & Cortina, 2005; Lim et al., 2008; Miner-Rubino & Reed, 2010), and lowered perceptions of fairness (Lim & Lee, 2011). At the organizational level, incivility can lead to lowered task performance (Chen et al., 2013), increased counterproductive work behavior (Penney & Spector, 2005), and ultimately increases in withdrawal behavior and turnover intentions (Chen et al., 2013; Lim et al., 2008; Miner-Rubino & Reed, 2010).

Gender microaggressions also cause harm to targets. For example, research shows that when women experience microaggressions, the effects can be deeply damaging psychologically, leading to depression, low self-esteem, body image issues (Lundberg, 2011) and distressing emotions (Capodilupo, et al., 2010). Using an intersectionality framework, research has documented that experiences of gendered racial-microaggressions (i.e., subtle discriminatory behavior at the intersection of one’s race and gender) relate to heightened psychological distress (Lewis and Neville, 2015) and depressive symptoms (Donovan, Galban, Grace, Bennett, & FeliciĆ©, 2013) for Black women.

In short, subtle interpersonal workplace discrimination creates an unhealthy work environment for women leading to numerous negative outcomes.

For more information, please consult these selected references. 

This is one of several short essays that were prepared as a set of resources during the original ADVANCE grant period. The essay, written by Thomas LaGrone, introduces the concept of a psychologically healthy workplace.

The phrase ‘Psychologically Healthy Workplace’ (PHW) has been utilized in several contexts to express the alignment of employees’ emotional, cognitive, and social needs with company policy and programs (Grawitz, Gottschalk, & Munz, 2006). According to the American Psychological Association, a PHW consists of five distinct, yet interconnected practices: Employee Involvement, Employee Growth and Development, Employee Recognition, Work-Life Balance, and Health & Safety.

Employee Growth and Development

Employee development programs tend to occur over two time spans: the short-term which is geared toward training for the current position and the long-term for career-related skills development. These can include specific training programs for legal compliance, technological and analytical skill-building and executive education programs. The end result is increased knowledge for the employee to reinvest in the company, as well as the perception that the company is invested in the employees’ future.

Health and Safety

Many families are reliant upon the medical benefits that are available through places of employment. Traditionally assessment and treatment of afflictions have been covered, but preventative measures like health screenings and wellness programs are growing in popularity along with substance abuse support and stress management programs.

Employee Involvement

Employee involvement is comprised of two elements: autonomy and input. Autonomy is characterized as the degree of freedom that an employee has to perform tasks and accomplish goals in a manner that is most efficient. One way organizations can extend autonomy to their employees is through a flextime arrangement which can accommodate the scheduling needs of the employee. Input refers to the degree to which an employee can shape decision making processes. This can be done a variety of ways. For example, via a suggestion box or direct interaction with decision-makers. As a whole, Employee Involvement has been shown to be the most robust practice to contribute to overall job satisfaction (Grawitch, Ballard, Barber, & Ledford, 2009). This necessarily entails encouraging a two-way channel of communication between decision-makers and employees.

Employee Recognition

Recognition/rewards for employees can be divided into monetary and non-monetary rewards. In terms of common practice, monetary rewards are much more prevalent than non-monetary. However, monetary rewards have been shown to correlate more with short-term endurance of behaviors. Non-monetary rewards such as public recognition and empowerment on the other hand correlate with more long term preservation and increased organizational commitment.

Work-Life Balance

Recognizing constraints acting upon the employees can lead to greater flexibility and support from the organization. Work-Life Balance recognizes that work accounts for a significant portion of the individual’s life span and often is interconnected. Overlapping with Employee Involvement practices, flextime illustrates accommodation for stressors on employees’ schedules, allowing for maximized efficacy. Further support groups such as substance abuse groups may be offered which overlaps with Health & Safety concerns.

For more information, see the American Psychological Association's Center for Organizational Excellence.


Grawitch, M. J., & Ballard, D. W. (2016). The psychologically healthy workplace: Building a win-win environment for organizations and employees. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Grawitch, M. J., Ballard, D. W., Justice, L., & Barber, L. K. (2009). Workplace practices and resource allocation: Theoretical and empirical implications for organizations. Poster presented at Work, Stress, and Health 2009: Global Concerns and Approaches, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Grawitch, M. J., Ballard, D. W., Ledford, Jr., G. E., & Barber, L. K. (2009). Leading the healthy workplace: The integral role of employee involvement. Consulting Psychology Journal, 61, 122-135.

Grawitch, M. J., Gottschalk, M., & Munz, D. C. (2006). The path to a healthy workplace: A critical review linking healthy workplace practices, employee well-being, and organizational improvements. Consulting Psychology Journal, 58, 129–147.

Grawitch, M. J., Trares, S. T., & Kohler, J. M. (2007). Healthy workplace practices and employee outcomes in a university context. International Journal of Stress Management, 14, 275–293.

Jaffe, D. (1995). The healthy company: Research paradigms for personal and organizational health. In S. Sauter & L. Murphy (Eds.) Organizational risk factors for job stress (pp. 13-39). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Jex, S. M., Swanson, N., & Grubb, P. (2013). Healthy workplaces. In N. Schmitt, S. Highhouse, & I. Weiner (Eds.) Handbook of psychology: Industrial and organizational psychology (pp. 615-642). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons Inc.

Confronting Subtle Workplace Mistreatment: The Importance of Leaders as Allies (article by Kimberly T. Schneider, Eric D. Wesselmann and Eros R. DeSouza in Frontiers in Psychology)

Sexism in the Academy: Women's Narrowing Path to Tenure (Article by Troy Vettese in N+1)