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Show Don’t Tell: Diversity Dishonesty Harms Racial/Ethnic Minorities at Work

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Organizations aim to convey that they are diverse and inclusive, in part, to recruit racial minorities. We investigate a previously unexamined downside of this recruitment strategy: diversity dishonesty, that is, belief that an organization is falsely or incorrectly inflating its actual diversity. In four studies (total N = 871), we found that diversity dishonesty heightened minorities’ concerns about fitting in, being authentic, and performing well at the organization. We also found that evidence-based cues (which “show” observers whether the organization has a positive or negative diversity climate), but not expressed cues (which “tell” observers about the organization’s diversity), affect these expectations. Using correlational methodologies, Study 1 found these effects were pertinent to African American and Latinx participants’ beliefs about their current workplaces, holding other diversity-related measures constant. Studies 2 to 4 used experimental methods to replicate these findings with African American participants, using a hypothetical workplace setting.
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https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167219897149
Personality and Social
Psychology Bulletin
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Empirical Research Paper
Diversity is commonly valued as a positive asset in the U.S.
workplace, and organizations frequently portray themselves
as committed to diversity and inclusion in promotional mate-
rials (e.g., marketing materials that depict photographs of
diverse workforces; diversity statements that ostensibly
reflect the organization’s values). In the United States, many
companies demonstrate some type of formal commitment to
diversity (Ivancevich & Gilbert, 2000). Indeed, the desire to
project a diverse organizational climate even caused one uni-
versity to photoshop an African American student onto the
front page of their admissions booklet (Prichep, 2013).
However, the most commonly used strategies to increase
organizational diversity are often not effective (Kalev et al.,
2006), and pro-diversity organizational portrayals can be
inaccurate or disconnected from the reality at the organiza-
tion. For example, although 87% of all Fortune 500 compa-
nies have a dedicated webpage expressing their commitment
to diversity, only 3% of those companies report their
employee demographics (and 72% of the senior executives at
those 16 companies that report this information are White
men; Jones & Donnelley, 2017).
In addition, ethnic minorities experience discrimination in
the job hiring process (Bertrand & Mullainathan, 2003;
Pager & Quillian, 2005), even by organizations that include
pro-diversity statements in their job advertisements (Kang
et al., 2016). Beyond hiring, in the workplace, minorities
endure microaggressions (e.g., brief, common indignities,
such as subtle snubs or dismissive tones, directed at certain
individuals on the basis of their social group identity; Holder
et al., 2015; Sue, 2010), are excluded from networking
opportunities (Dreher & Cox, 2000), receive negative com-
petence and leadership evaluations (Ford et al., 1986;
Heilman & Welle, 2006), are disadvantaged in promotion
decisions (Powell & Butterfield, 1997), and experience turn-
over at higher rates than their White counterparts (Shurn-
Hannah, 2000).
Thus, the discrepancy between the extent to which orga-
nizations “tell” versus “show” that they value racial and
ethnic diversity can leave ethnic minorities concerned that
the organization’s pro-diversity claims are specious
(McKay & Avery, 2005). We refer to these concerns as
diversity dishonesty, that is, belief that an organization is
inflating its actual level of diversity. Diversity dishonesty
897149PSPXXX10.1177/0146167219897149Personality and Social Psychology BulletinWilton et al.
research-article2020
1Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY, USA
2University of California, Los Angeles, USA
3University of Washington, Seattle, USA
Corresponding Author:
Leigh S. Wilton, Department of Psychology, Tisch Learning Center,
Skidmore College, 815 North Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866,
USA.
Email: lwilton@skidmore.edu
Show Don’t Tell: Diversity Dishonesty
Harms Racial/Ethnic Minorities at Work
Leigh S. Wilton1, Ariana N. Bell2, Mariam Vahradyan1,
and Cheryl R. Kaiser3
Abstract
Organizations aim to convey that they are diverse and inclusive, in part, to recruit racial minorities. We investigate a
previously unexamined downside of this recruitment strategy: diversity dishonesty, that is, belief that an organization is falsely
or incorrectly inflating its actual diversity. In four studies (total N = 871), we found that diversity dishonesty heightened
minorities’ concerns about fitting in, being authentic, and performing well at the organization. We also found that evidence-
based cues (which “show” observers whether the organization has a positive or negative diversity climate), but not expressed
cues (which “tell” observers about the organization’s diversity), affect these expectations. Using correlational methodologies,
Study 1 found these effects were pertinent to African American and Latinx participants’ beliefs about their current workplaces,
holding other diversity-related measures constant. Studies 2 to 4 used experimental methods to replicate these findings with
African American participants, using a hypothetical workplace setting.
Keywords
diversity, identity, race, performance, intergroup relations
Received February 18, 2019; revision accepted December 4, 2019
2 Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 00(0)
concerns are subjective but can be grounded in reality. We
propose that the extent to which racial and ethnic minorities
are aware of diversity dishonesty predicts their sense of
organizational fit, as well as their belief that they can be
their authentic selves and perform well at work. Specifically,
when African American and Latinx employees believe an
organization dishonestly advertises a pro-diversity mes-
sage, they anticipate that they will be less likely to fit in, be
themselves, and perform well at that particular workplace.
We conduct four studies to examine diversity dishonesty
among groups that are targeted by diversity efforts, and we
explore how efforts to promote diversity may unintention-
ally harm the very diversity goals organizations aspire to
achieve.
We also examine whether two distinct types of organiza-
tional diversity cues trigger minorities’ diversity dishonesty
beliefs: (a) expressed pro-diversity cues (e.g., written com-
mitments to diversity on websites or promotional materi-
als), which tell people about the organization’s diversity,
and (b) evidence-based diversity cues (e.g., demographics
of employees, accounts of the racial climate by employees),
which show people about the organization’s diversity.
Previous research has primarily examined the effects of
either expressed or evidence-based cues on work-related
outcomes (exception: Purdie-Vaughns et al., 2008). This
work finds that ethnic minorities evaluate favorably com-
panies that express pro-diversity cues (e.g., McKay &
Avery, 2005; Perkins et al., 2000; Slaughter et al., 2002;
Williams & Bauer, 1994), yet can feel psychologically vul-
nerable when evidence-based information (e.g., diversity
representation) does not suggest diversity is valued (e.g.,
Chen & Hamilton, 2015; Sekaquaptewa & Thompson,
2002; Thompson & Sekaquaptewa, 2002; Unzueta &
Binning, 2012). We examine both cues in tandem, because
people often have access to both sources of discrepant
information (i.e., expressed pro-diversity cues presented in
the absence of evidence-based pro-diversity cues) when
evaluating an organization.
Organizational Pro-Diversity Portrayals
U.S. organizations may seek to recruit ethnic minority appli-
cants to capitalize on the benefits of diversity, such as
enhanced creativity (Maddux et al., 2010; Tadmor et al.,
2012), problem solving, or information sharing (Crisp &
Turner, 2011; Sommers, 2006). They may also do so to
avoid either litigation related to preferential hiring of
European Americans or a negative public image of the orga-
nization as discriminatory toward racial minorities (Collins,
2011). Regardless of the underlying reasons why organiza-
tions may seek to hire ethnic minorities, it is clear that spe-
cifically targeting racial minorities in employee recruitment
materials is both a common hiring practice and, ultimately,
a necessary step to begin addressing racial inequalities
within organizations.
Scholars and practitioners agree that, to recruit minority
applicants, organizations should communicate that they
value diversity and have a fair, diverse, and inclusive envi-
ronment (Avery & McKay, 2006). Organizations that fea-
ture targeted group members in advertisements or present
diversity and inclusiveness statements create the expecta-
tion that the organization is fair and tolerant (Gündemir
et al., 2017; Gündemir & Galinsky, 2018; Kaiser et al.,
2013; Wilton et al., 2018), which can attract underrepre-
sented applicants (McKay & Avery, 2005). Minority appli-
cants are more attracted to organizations whose
advertisements include photographs of racial minorities
(Perkins et al., 2000), commitments to diversity (Highhouse
et al., 1999; Slaughter et al., 2002), or information about a
diversity management policy (Williams & Bauer, 1994),
because they feel more similar to the employees working at
the organization (Avery et al., 2004).
However, sometimes these organizational strategies to
hire racial minorities can backfire, resulting in potential
applicants ironically being deterred by promotional materials
that address diversity. In a large-scale natural field experi-
ment across 10 U.S. cities, Leibbrandt and List (2018) found
that racial minorities were up to 30% less likely to apply to a
job that included an equal employment opportunity (EEO)
diversity statement, particularly in majority-White cities.
The researchers theorized that minorities were concerned
about being tokenized, or hired as an underrepresented group
member to give the company the appearance of fairness and
inclusion (e.g., Kanter, 1977), at the organizations that
included an EEO statement. That is, they expected that the
organizations would not actually be diverse and that their
solo status (e.g., being the only member of their racial group;
Thompson & Sekaquaptewa, 2002) would make for a nega-
tive workplace environment (Leibbrandt & List, 2018). This
field study raises the possibility that minorities sometimes
harbor doubts about whether pro-diversity organizations will
actually offer positive diversity experiences. The present
studies introduce and explore diversity dishonesty as a pre-
cursor to understanding when diversity efforts might pro-
duce less, rather than more, trust in an organization’s
commitment to diversity.
We argue that the gap between how organizations por-
tray their commitments to diversity and minorities’ lived or
expected realities in organizations could lead minorities to
assess a company through the lens of diversity dishonesty.
Relatedly, research on interracial interpersonal interactions
suggests that White people can be motivated by the desire
to appear likable and non-racist in the presence of racial
minority interaction partners (Bergsieker et al., 2010;
Monin & Miller, 2001), as well as patronize racial minori-
ties by presenting themselves as less competent (Dupree &
Fiske, 2019). As a result, minorities can therefore be suspi-
cious of Whites’ motives in interracial interpersonal inter-
actions (Major et al., 2013) and attribute ambiguous
behavior to bias (Crocker, Voelkl, Testa, & Major, 1991).
Wilton et al. 3
When ethnic minorities believe that White people are moti-
vated by fear of appearing racist (as opposed to egalitarian
ideals), they even interpret positive feedback as being dis-
ingenuous (Major et al., 2013). Most U.S. organizations are
predominantly run by White people (Jones & Donnelley,
2017), so ethnic minorities may make similar attributions
for organizational behavior as they do about White people
in interracial interpersonal interactions. Specifically,
minorities may construe pro-diversity organizational adver-
tisements as specious attempts to signal diversity. And,
given that organizations exert significant economic, social,
and political influence in societies, these organizational
perceptions can have far-reaching consequences.
We suggest that concern regarding organizational diver-
sity dishonesty can harm minorities in the workplace. If
minorities believe that an organization is speciously making
a pro-diversity claim, they may also expect that they will not
fit in, cannot be authentic, or will not be successful at work.
To perform well in professional settings, people must not feel
unsafe in these spaces (Cohen & Garcia, 2008; Emerson &
Murphy, 2014; Purdie-Vaughns et al., 2008; Steele et al.,
2002; Walton & Cohen, 2007; Wout et al., 2010). Yet, the
more ethnic minorities attribute Whites’ behavior toward
them to insincere motives, the more cardiovascular threat,
stress, and belonging uncertainty they experience (Major
et al., 2013). In the workplace, minorities can feel vulnerable
in response to certain organizational cues, even those that
outwardly assert a pro-diversity message (Dover et al., 2019;
Gündemir et al., 2017; Kirby & Kaiser, under review; Plaut
et al., 2009). As such, we expect that believing that an orga-
nization is disingenuously promoting a pro-diversity envi-
ronment is harmful for ethnic minorities, because it will
reduce their beliefs that they will belong in the context.
When ethnic minorities experience identity-related vul-
nerabilities in response to certain organizational cues, they
expect professional spaces to be less diverse or egalitarian,
and subsequently perform worse (Holoien & Shelton, 2012;
Wilton et al., 2015). Ethnic minorities perform better when
they feel that they will fit in and can be their authentic selves
in professional spaces (Cohen & Garcia, 2008; Walton &
Cohen, 2007, 2011), which suggests that these are two
important psychological factors to explore in relation to
work performance. For example, when Black students were
made to feel like they had fewer friends, they reported sig-
nificantly lower sense of fit and potential in an academic
domain (Walton & Cohen, 2007). Together, these findings
suggest that believing that an organizational pro-diversity
statement is false may undermine ethnic minorities’ beliefs
that they can be successful at an organization, by decreasing
their sense of organizational belonging and authenticity.
Thus, we hypothesized that feelings of diversity dishonesty
would heighten ethnic minorities’ concerns about whether or
not they would fit in, be their authentic selves, and perform
well at the organization.
The Current Research
In the present work, four studies explored how ethnic minor-
ities’ organizational diversity dishonesty assessments, or the
belief that an organization was misleading about the extent
to which racial diversity is valued and supported, influence
their work-related experiences, as well as what environmen-
tal cues may increase or decrease participants’ feelings of
diversity dishonesty. In Studies 1 to 4, we tested the hypoth-
esis that feelings of diversity dishonesty negatively predict
racial minorities’ expected feelings of fit, authenticity, and
performance at work. Study 1 was a correlational study
designed to create a measure of diversity dishonesty, and
test whether it would predict outcomes we theorize to follow
from this state. To capture the fact that diversity dishonesty
assessments are rooted in minorities’ awareness of organiza-
tional cues, we assessed African American and Latinx par-
ticipants’ assessments of their actual, current workplaces. In
Studies 2 to 4, we presented participants with promotional
materials that conveyed a hypothetical organization’s
expressed commitment to diversity (i.e., organizational
diversity messages), along with evidence-based indicators
of whether or not the organization actually is diverse (demo-
graphic representation in Studies 2 and 3; word of mouth
accounts about diversity climate in Study 4). This design
allowed us to examine four competing hypotheses concern-
ing how expressed and evidence-based organizational cues
might work in tandem to trigger African American partici-
pants’ diversity dishonesty assessment (and its consequences
for expectations of organizational fit, authenticity, and per-
formance). For a visual representation of the pattern of
hypothesized results, see Figure 1.
In the tell-don’t-show hypothesis, we would expect that
expressed cues (i.e., telling) alone would influence ethnic
minorities’ expectations about the work environment, regard-
less of the evidence-based information available, such that
there would be a main effect of expressed cues only. Consistent
with previous research documenting the positive effects of
diversity cues (see above), we would specifically expect eth-
nic minorities to report lower expected organizational fit,
authenticity, and performance in a control condition in which
an organization did not address diversity, compared with an
experimental condition in which an organization did express
a commitment to diversity. An organization’s expressed pro-
diversity portrayal alone would be enough to induce more
favorable anticipated work experiences, regardless of whether
the evidence-based information was consistent or inconsis-
tent with the expressed information.
In the show-don’t-tell hypothesis, we would expect that
evidence-based cues alone would influence minorities’
expectations about the work environment, regardless of the
information available from expressed cues, such that there
would be a main effect of evidence-based cues only.
Consistent with previous research documenting the positive
4 Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 00(0)
effects of factors such as racial representation on ethnic
minorities’ work-related experiences (see above), we would
specifically expect that an evidence-based cue demonstrating
that the company values diversity (e.g., a racially diverse
organizational chart) would lead ethnic minorities to report
lower expected organizational fit, authenticity, and perfor-
mance compared with a control in which racial diversity was
absent (e.g., a racially homogeneous organizational chart
with White employees). Relatedly, we also expect that an
expressed cue demonstrating that the company does not
value diversity (e.g., an account of poor diversity climate)
would lead ethnic minorities to report lower expected organi-
zational fit, authenticity, and performance, relative to a con-
trol condition (a negative account of the climate unrelated to
diversity). Evidence-based information about a company’s
diversity alone would influence minorities’ work-related
experiences.
In the show-and-tell cost hypothesis, we would expect
that both expressed and evidence-based cues in combination
would uniquely shift ethnic minorities’ feelings of diversity
dishonesty, as well as organizational fit, authenticity, and
performance expectations, such that there would be a signifi-
cant interaction between expressed and evidence-based cues.
Here, ethnic minorities’ levels of perceived diversity dishon-
esty may be highest, and their feelings of organizational fit,
authenticity, and work performance the lowest, if an organi-
zation provides expressed pro-diversity cues (i.e., tell people
they care about diversity) when evidence-based cues to sup-
port that commitment are absent (i.e., fail to show people that
they care about diversity). In other words, when organiza-
tions claim to value diversity but lack any evidence to such
an effect, ethnic minorities may perceive the organizations’
diversity claims as specious, resulting in higher reported lev-
els of diversity dishonesty and more negative anticipated
work-related experiences.
In the show-and-tell boost hypothesis, we would similarly
expect that both expressed and evidence-based cues in com-
bination would uniquely shift ethnic minorities’ feelings of
diversity dishonesty, as well as organizational fit, authentic-
ity, and performance expectations, such that there would be a
significant interaction between expressed and evidence-
based cues—but would lead to a different pattern of results.
Ethnic minorities’ diversity dishonesty expectations may be
lowest, and their feelings of organizational fit, authenticity,
and work performance the highest, if an organization pro-
vides both expressed and evidence-based diversity cues,
such that the two types of cues have an additive effect when
both are positive and present.
Full versions of all measures, manipulations, and exclu-
sions are reported in the Supplemental Materials, as are addi-
tional data not included in this article. In all studies, we
collected additional measures that generally followed the
same pattern of results as the measures described in the main
text. We report these measures in full in the Supplemental
Figure 1. Graphical representation of the general patterns of data for the competing hypotheses.
Wilton et al. 5
Materials to simplify the reporting of results. The inclusion
criteria required that all participants self-identify as being
between the ages of 18 and 30 (because we wanted partici-
pants to envision what working in an entry level position at a
particular company would be like), Black/African American
(Studies 1–4) and Latinx (Study 1), and employed full-time
at a U.S. organization. All exclusion criteria were established
a priori, and no statistical analyses were conducted prior to
concluding data collection. Studies 2 and 4 were preregis-
tered and are available (see attached).
Study 1
The objective of Study 1 was to develop and test the factor
structure of a diversity dishonesty scale, based on ethnic
minorities’ assessments of their actual workplaces, and test
the hypothesis that diversity dishonesty negatively predicts
ethnic minorities’ feelings of organizational fit, authenticity,
and performance at work. We measured African American
and Latinx participants’ beliefs that their current workplaces
exaggerated the extent to which they were diverse and inclu-
sive, and explored whether these beliefs negatively predicted
their actual feelings of organizational fit, authenticity, and
performance in their jobs, above and beyond other diversity-
related beliefs.
Method
Participants. Using the research survey company Toluna
(www.toluna.com), we aimed to recruit a nationally repre-
sentative sample of 200 or more adult (18+), English-fluent,
Black/African American and Latinx participants who were
currently employed full-time at a U.S. organization. This
sample size is suitable for structural equation modeling
(Kline, 2005), and exceeds the minimum sample size of 168
required to capture 80% statistical power for a mixed within–
between analysis of variance (ANOVA) design (based on an
a priori power analysis assuming a small effect size of .10
and a correlation of .40 for repeated measures). The final
sample (N = 249) included 149 Black, 98 Latinx, and two
multi-ethnic Latinx/Black individuals (142 women, 105
men, and two other genders; Mage = 40.18, SDage = 12.93).
Participants received US$0.75 in compensation. Additional
demographics (e.g., education status) are reported in the
Supplemental Materials.
Procedure and measures. Participants were invited to take
part in a research study exploring people’s experiences with
racial/ethnic diversity at work. Toluna invited participants to
complete the study online. After providing informed consent,
participants answered both target (race/ethnicity, current
work status, current country status; see above) and filler
(gender, age) demographic questions to confirm they met the
study criteria. Qualified participants were asked to “think
about your organization’s attitude and commitment towards
racial and ethnic diversity” and report their feelings of diver-
sity dishonesty, perceived organizational fit, authenticity at
work, and expected work performance in that order (see
below). To test alternate predictors that may have alternately
influenced participants’ work diversity beliefs, participants
also reported their personal identification as a racial/ethnic
minority group member (i.e., racial identification, four
items, α = .54; Luhtanen & Crocker, 1992), personal beliefs
about ethnic diversity (i.e., diversity beliefs, four items, α =
.88; Cross & Cross, 2008), and social dominance orientation
(i.e., Social Dominance Orientation–Short Form [SDO],
four items; α = .61; Ho et al., 2015). We focused on factors
that can (or that we theorized would) influence the ways that
racial/ethnic minorities experience organizations as a func-
tion of diversity cues: Weakly racially identified minorities
can feel less authentic in organizations (e.g., Kirby & Kaiser,
under review), and SDO can influence minorities’ feelings of
safety in an organization (e.g., Chaney et al., 2016). In addi-
tion, we expected that the more minorities personally
believed racial/ethnic diversity is important, the more they
may attend to diversity-related cues in their organizations
(therefore influencing their evaluations of the organization).
Participants provided additional information about their
work (e.g., industry). Randomly embedded within the survey
was an instructional attention check, which all participants
passed, designed to identify participants who were not pay-
ing attention to the study directions (Oppenheimer et al.,
2009). After completing all measures, participants read a
debriefing statement and were thanked and compensated for
their participation. All measures were assessed using a Lik-
ert-type scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7
(strongly agree) unless otherwise noted, and are reported in
full in the Supplemental Materials.
Diversity dishonesty. This four-item scale assessed partici-
pants’ assessment of whether or not their organization misled
them about the extent to which diversity is valued and sup-
ported at work. The items were as follows: “My organization
is not sincere about its pro-diversity messages to employ-
ees,” “My organization overstates its actual commitment
to diversity,” “My organization acts like it is better about
diversity-related issues than it really is,” and “Ethnic minori-
ties are promised more resources and support than is actually
provided by my organization” (α = .88).
Perceived organizational fit. We adapted Walton and
Cohen’s (2007) 17-item scale of perceived fit and belong-
ing. Sample items included the following: “I belong at my
organization,” and “I feel alienated from my organization
[reverse coded]” (α = .87).
Authenticity at work. Our four-item measure assessed how
autonomous participants felt with regard to expressing their
racial/ethnic identity at work. Sample items included the fol-
lowing: “I feel I can be my authentic self at my organization,”
6 Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 00(0)
and “I feel I need to ‘put on a mask’ to be successful at my
organization [reverse coded]” (α = .68).
Perceived work performance. Our six-item measure
assessed how participants felt they were performing at work
relative to their true potential. Sample items included the fol-
lowing: “I am able to be successful at my organization,” and
“I am able to live up to my full potential at my organization”
(α = .87).
Results
Table 1 presents the descriptive statistics and inter-item cor-
relations between all primary variables.
Confirmatory factor analysis of diversity dishonesty scale. Because
we developed the diversity dishonesty measure for this
research, we first used maximum likelihood procedures to
estimate the scale’s latent factor structure and verify that all
items loaded appropriately on a single factor. We constrained
the variance of the latent factor (diversity dishonesty) to 1,
and allowed the variances of the four indicator items to be
freely estimated. General guidelines for good model fit spec-
ify that χ2 is non-significant (Hu & Bentler, 1999) and that
the χ2/df ratio is less than 3.0 (Kline, 2005). Based on these
criteria, the model demonstrated strong fit, χ2(2) = 1.69, p =
.43, χ2/df = 0.85. The “goodness-of-fit” comparative fit
index (CFI) was 1.00, and the “badness-of-fit” root mean
square error of approximation (RMSEA) was 0.00. Both of
these values indicate perfect fit and exceed Hu and Bentler’s
(1999) suggested cutoffs of .95 (for CFI) and .06 (for
RMSEA). The 90% RMSEA confidence interval [CI] =
[0.00, 0.14] contained 0, providing further evidence that the
model offered a good fit. All four-scale items loaded on a
single factor, and we were satisfied with the scale properties
(Table S1) (Hu and Bentler, 1999).
Incremental validity of diversity dishonesty in predicting depen-
dent variables. Next, we tested the hypothesis that diversity
dishonesty negatively predicts racial minorities’ feelings of
organizational fit, authenticity, and performance at work. We
conducted separate regressions of perceived organizational
fit, authenticity at work, and perceived work performance on
our primary predictor (diversity dishonesty) and our alter-
nate predictors (racial identification, beliefs about diversity,
and SDO). Controlling for the effects of all alternate predic-
tors, diversity dishonesty significantly predicted both per-
ceived organizational fit, b = −0.19, SE = 0.04, t = −5.19,
p < .001, 95% CI = [−0.26, −0.12], and authenticity at work,
b = −2.72, SE = 0.05, t = −5.02, p < .001, 95% CI =
[−0.38, −0.17], but not work performance, b = −0.01, SE =
0.06, t = −0.11, p = .91, 95% CI = [−0.12, 0.10] (Table S2).
These effects hold when excluding controls in the models
(see Table 1 for inter-measure correlations). There were no
significant effects of participant gender (all ps < .21).
Because regression models are associated with inflated
Type I error rates (Westfall & Yarkoni, 2016), we also con-
structed a series of structural equation models (SEMs) to test
our main hypothesis. Results of the SEMs were entirely con-
sistent with those from the separate regression models (Table
S3). Diversity dishonesty, b = −0.41, SE = 0.06, t = −6.59,
p .001, 95% CI = [−0.53, −0.28], significantly predicted
perceived organizational fit, controlling for all other vari-
ables, χ2(14) = 18.83, p = .17, χ2/df = 1.34, CFI = 0.99,
RMSEA = 0.04, 90% CI = [0.00, 0.09]. In addition, diver-
sity dishonesty, b = −0.39, SE = 0.07, t = −5.56, p .001,
95% CI = [−0.53, −0.25], significantly predicted authentic-
ity at work, controlling for all other variables, χ2(14) =
19.93, p = .13, χ2/df = 1.42, CFI = 0.99, RMSEA = 0.05,
90% CI = [0.00, 0.09]. Diversity dishonesty, b = −0.06,
SE = 0.08, t = −0.84, p = .40, 95% CI = [−0.21, 0.09], did
not significantly predict perceived work performance,
χ2(14) = 20.29, p = .12, χ2/df = 1.45, CFI = 0.99, RMSEA =
0.05, 90% CI = [0.00, 0.09].
Discussion
In Study 1, we demonstrated that African American and
Latinx people attend to diversity dishonesty in the workplace.
We also received initial support for the main hypothesis that,
Table 1. Means, Standard Deviations, and Inter-Item Correlations Between All Variables in Study 1.
Variables 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 M SD
1 Diversity dishonesty 4.23 1.92
2 Organizational fit −.32*** 5.03 0.94
3 Authenticity −.35*** .53*** 4.43 1.25
4 Perceived
performance
.08 .55*** .44*** 5.07 1.24
5 Beliefs about diversity .14* .42*** .16* .32*** 5.69 1.19
6 SDO −.23*** .43*** .22** −.002 .37*** 7.21 1.89
7 Racial identification −.12 .30*** .17* .02 .33*** .48*** 4.55 1.12
SDO = Social Dominance Orientation.
*p .05. **p .01. ***p .001.
Wilton et al. 7
for minorities, diversity dishonesty is associated with a lower
sense of fit and authenticity at their workplaces. Diversity dis-
honesty predicted these outcomes, controlling for other rele-
vant measures. However, we did not find diversity dishonesty
predicted their perceived ability to be successful at work.
Thus, although organizations may make pro-diversity claims
with the intention of attracting underrepresented group mem-
bers, we document that these claims can backfire when
minorities experience them as being specious.
In Studies 2 to 4, we experimentally induced diversity
dishonesty—as well as decreased expectations of organiza-
tional fit, authenticity, and work performance—in African
American participants (one of the largest marginalized
demographic groups in the workplace; U.S. Department of
Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011). We exposed them
to a hypothetical company’s expressed (i.e., organizational
messages) and evidence-based (i.e., representation, word of
mouth) organizational diversity cues. By doing so, we
simultaneously tested whether diversity dishonesty assess-
ments (and their resulting consequences for perceived fit,
authenticity, and performance) are triggered by expressed
cues alone (show-don’t-tell hypothesis), evidence-based
cues alone (tell-don’t-show hypothesis), or the interaction of
the two (show-and-tell hypothesis, either cost or boost).
Study 2
Participants and Design
The study employed a 2 (expressed diversity cue: organiza-
tional diversity statement present vs. absent) × 2 (evidence-
based diversity cue: organizational racial/ethnic diversity
high vs. low) between-subjects design. We recruited 200
working African American/Black participants (approxi-
mately 50 per condition; Mage = 25.52, SDage = 3.57; 148
cisgender women and 52 cisgender men) through a Qualtrics
panel in exchange for US$0.75. Power analyses indicate this
sample size is sufficient to detect a small-to-medium effect
size, f(.22), at 80% power (given α = .05 and four groups).
All participants passed an attention check.
Procedure and Materials
The study was described as an exploration of impressions of
companies based on their online presence. After providing
informed consent, all participants were “randomly” assigned
to view a company called CAST Technologies. First, partici-
pants were presented with an organizational advertising bro-
chure that expressly stated CAST’s company values and
featured stock photographs of businesspeople (the expressed
cue). For participants in the expressed diversity cue present
condition, the materials highlighted the core values of “integ-
rity, smart solutions, and diversity,” and contained a short
paragraph that affirmed that diversity was integral to their
organizational mission and products. For participants in the
expressed cue control condition, diversity was not high-
lighted in the brochure; the materials highlighted the core
values of “integrity, smart solutions, and client focus,” and
contained a short paragraph that affirmed that client focus
was integral to their organizational mission and products. An
independent sample of 63 African American/Black partici-
pants (Mage = 26.06, SDage = 3.21; 41 cisgender women, 21
cisgender men, one no gender selected) previously con-
firmed that CAST was viewed as more interested in diversity
when the company values included diversity, as opposed to
client focus (ts > 4.63, ps .001).
After reviewing CAST’s advertising materials, partici-
pants were presented with an overview of CAST’s actual
organizational chart, our evidence-based diversity cue, which
they were told provided a glimpse of CAST’s actual work-
force. In the high racial/ethnic diversity evidence condition,
the chart included photographs of both Black/African
American and White/Caucasian women and men in various
positions at the company. In the low racial/ethnic diversity
evidence condition, the workforce included photographs of
only White/Caucasian employees. Participants next com-
pleted measures of diversity dishonesty (α = .76), perceived
organizational fit (α = .89), work authenticity (α = .76),
perceived performance (α = .91), and racial identification
(α = .76), as described in Study 1, except relevant scale
items were reworded to reflect the hypothetical nature of the
job (e.g., “I would feel . . . at this company”) and the perfor-
mance measure was abbreviated to four items. We focused
on racial identification as a potential control variable in
Studies 2 to 4, because it can moderate minorities’ experi-
ences in organizations (e.g., Kirby & Kaiser, under review).
Participants also reported personal (e.g., age, gender) and
professional (e.g., current job industry) background informa-
tion (see Supplemental Materials). Finally, participants were
debriefed and compensated for their participation.
Results and Discussion
Table 2 presents the descriptive statistics and inter-item
correlations between all primary variables. We computed
2 (expressed diversity cue: diversity statement in brochure
present vs. absent) × 2 (evidence-based diversity cue:
high vs. low racial/ethnic diversity in workforce) between-
subjects ANOVAs on each dependent measure (diversity
dishonesty, perceived organizational fit, racial/ethnic
authenticity, and perceived performance). Because we
planned four ANOVAs, we used a Bonferroni adjustment
resulting in a critical α = .013. Consistent with the show-
don’t-tell hypothesis, we found that only the evidence-based
cue shaped African American perceivers’ expectations about
what it would be like to work at the organization. When eval-
uating a company that presented a diverse organizational
chart as evidence of diversity, participants reported lower
diversity dishonesty belief, F(1, 196) = 7.32, p = .007,
ηp
2 = .04, 95% CI = [0.25, 1.30], Cohen’s d = .41
8 Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 00(0)
(see Figure 2), and expected greater organizational fit,
F(1, 195) = 19.63, p < .001, ηp
2 = .09, 95% CI = [−0.96,
−0.21], Cohen’s d = .68, greater authenticity at work,
F(1, 195) = 21.81, p < .001, ηp
2 = .10, 95% CI = [−1.22,
−0.16], Cohen’s d = .57, and greater perceived work perfor-
mance, F(1, 195) = 14.21, p < .001, ηp
2 = .07, 95% CI =
[−1.49, −0.36], Cohen’s d = .57, as compared with when
evaluating a company that presented a non-diverse organiza-
tional chart. These impressions were consistent regardless of
the expressed diversity cue provided; there were no signifi-
cant main effects of (all Fs < 3.81, ps > .05) or interactions
with (all Fs < 1.88, ps > .17) the expressed diversity cue on
our dependent variables. The results remained consistent
when controlling for racial identification (which did not vary
by condition; all ps > .40) in analyses of covariance
(ANCOVAs). There were no significant effects of participant
gender (all ps > .04; adjusted critical α = .013).
Means and standard deviations of the dependent variables
by study condition are presented in Table 3 for the main
effects and in Table S4 interactions. Although organizations
frequently use expressed cues to attract minorities, we did
not find that it significantly affected participants’ diversity
dishonesty assessments, or beliefs about organizational fit,
authenticity, and perceived work performance, either holding
the evidence-based cue constant (the show-don’t-tell hypoth-
esis) or in conjunction with the evidence-based cue (the
show-and-tell hypothesis).
Study 3
Study 3 sought to replicate Study 2 to provide confirmatory
evidence in support of our finding that the expressed cue did
not influence minorities’ organizational work expectations.
To test the generalizability of this finding, we used videos
(Dover et al., 2016) instead of brochures to manipulate the
expressed diversity cue.
Participants and Design
We again sought to recruit 200 participants (sufficient to
detect a small-to-medium effect size, f(.22), at 80% power;
see Study 2) to a 2 (expressed diversity cue: organizational
video diversity message present vs. absent) × 2 (evidence-
based diversity cue: organizational racial/ethnic diversity
high vs. low) between-subjects design; 211 African
American/Black participants (M = 26.03, SD = 3.02; 156
cisgender women, 53 cisgender men, one transgender indi-
vidual, and one self-identified “another gender”) were
recruited through a Qualtrics panel in exchange for US$0.75.
All participants passed the attention check.
Procedure and Materials
Study 3 followed the same procedure described in Study 2.
We measured diversity dishonesty (α = .85), perceived orga-
nizational fit (α = .92), perceived authenticity (α = .83), and
perceived performance (α = .93) as described in Study 2,
and racial identification (α = .55) as described in Study 1. To
manipulate the expressed cue, we used videos designed and
validated by Dover and colleagues (2016), which claimed
the organization valued either “diverse” (expressed diversity
cue present condition) or “unique” (expressed diversity cue
absent condition) “experiences, perspectives, and cultural
backgrounds.” In addition, we asked participants to complete
Table 2. Means, Standard Deviations, and Inter-Item Correlations Between Primary Variables in Studies 2 to 4.
Study 2 variables 1 2 3 4 5 M SD
1 Diversity dishonesty 4.23 1.35
2 Organizational fit −.29*** 4.55 0.99
3 Authenticity −.32*** .63*** — 4.04 1.40
4 Racial identification .07 −.07 −.10 4.55 1.29
5 Perceived performance −.17* .74*** .61*** −.14 4.79 1.47
Study 3 variables 1 2 3 4 5 M SD
1 Diversity dishonesty 4.00 1.56
2 Organizational fit −.43*** 4.78 1.08
3 Authenticity −.48*** .71*** — 4.24 1.55
4 Racial identification .10 .04 −.10 4.70 1.20
5 Perceived performance −.29*** .72*** .64*** .02 4.83 1.57
Study 4 variables 1 2 3 4 5 M SD
1 Diversity dishonesty 4.51 1.35
2 Organizational fit −.40*** 4.16 1.05
3 Authenticity −.41*** .70*** — 3.68 1.55
4 Racial identification .08 -.17*** −.31*** 4.84 1.41
5 Perceived performance −.37*** .77*** .69*** −.18*** 4.46 1.60
*p < .05. ***p .001.
Wilton et al. 9
up to 35 anagrams as a measure of actual performance.
Participants were allowed to work on as many or few ana-
grams as they liked for an unlimited amount of time, and
were told that the activity would help determine where they
would best fit in at the company. The total number of ana-
grams attempted and completed correctly were totaled to cre-
ate each participant’s actual performance scores.
Results and Discussion
Table 2 presents the descriptive statistics and inter-item cor-
relations between all primary variables. Consistent with our
previous study, 2 (expressed diversity cue: diversity state-
ment in organizational video present vs. absent) × 2
(evidence-based diversity cue: high vs. low racial/ethnic
diversity in workforce) ANOVAs using a Bonferroni adjust-
ment (critical α = .013) found evidence in support of the
tell-don’t-show hypothesis. When evaluating a company that
presented a diverse (vs. non-diverse) organizational chart,
participants reported significantly lower diversity dishonesty
beliefs, F(1, 210) = 22.73, p < .001, ηp
2 = .10, 95% CI =
[0.17, 1.31], Cohen’s d = .66 (see Figure 2), and higher rat-
ings of perceived fit, F(1, 210) = 14.01, p < .001, ηp
2 = .06,
95% CI = [−0.92, −0.10], Cohen’s d = .51, perceived authen-
ticity, F(1, 210) = 16.37, p < .001, ηp
2 = .07, 95% CI =
[−1.32, −0.16], Cohen’s d = .56, and perceived work perfor-
mance, F(1, 210) = 6.65, p = .01, ηp
2 = .03, 95% CI =
[−1.22, −0.03], Cohen’s d = .36. There were no significant
Figure 2. Diversity dishonest by experimental conditions.
Note. The evidence-based cues were organizational charts (Studies 2 and 3) and “Glassdoor.com” reviews (Study 4). The expressed positive cues were
organizational diversity messages across studies.
Table 3. Means and Standard Deviations for Dependent Variables by Study Condition in Studies 2 to 4.
Study 2 variables
Expressed cues Evidence-based cues
Diverse statement Control statement Diverse organizational chart Control organizational chart
Diversity dishonesty 4.11 (1.36) 4.36 (1.34) 3.97 (1.36) 4.51 (1.29)
Organizational fit 4.73 (1.05) 4.37 (0.88) 4.86 (0.88) 4.22 (0.99)
Authenticity 4.24 (1.39) 3.84 (1.39) 4.49 (1.27) 3.56 (1.38)
Perceived performance 4.98 (1.47) 4.60 (1.45) 5.18 (1.26) 4.37 (1.56)
Study 3 variables Diverse video Control video Diverse organizational chart Control organizational chart
Diversity dishonesty 3.97 (1.51) 4.05 (1.59) 3.52 (1.35) 4.49 (1.59)
Organizational fit 4.84 (1.01) 4.74 (1.16) 5.06 (0.94) 4.52 (1.16)
Authenticity 4.31 (1.47) 4.18 (1.64) 4.67 (1.44) 3.83 (1.56)
Perceived performance 4.87 (1.50) 4.79 (1.62) 5.11 (1.39) 4.56 (1.67)
# Anagrams correct 7.90 (6.12) 7.46 (6.55) 7.76 (6.12) 7.60 (6.56)
# Anagrams attempted 9.57 (6.56) 8.76 (6.82) 8.83 (6.32) 9.48 (7.05)
Study 4 variables Diverse statement Control statement Diversity review Control review
Diversity dishonesty 4.56 (1.46) 4.47 (1.06) 4.99 (1.22) 3.98 (1.25)
Organizational fit 4.19 (1.05) 4.05 (1.03) 3.74 (0.99) 4.61 (0.91)
Authenticity 3.70 (1.56) 3.57 (1.49) 3.17 (1.51) 4.23 (1.37)
Perceived performance 4.52 (1.63) 4.26 (1.54) 3.99 (1.65) 4.95 (1.38)
10 Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 00(0)
main effects of (all Fs < 0.50, ps >.48) or interactions with
(all Fs < 1.27, ps > .26) the expressed diversity cue (i.e.,
organizational video) on any of the dependent variables. The
means and standard deviations for the main effects are pre-
sented in Table 3, and by all four conditions in Table S4. The
results remained consistent when controlling for racial iden-
tification (which did not vary by condition; all ps > .11) in
ANCOVAs. There were no significant effects of participant
gender (all ps > .03; adjusted critical α = .013). Thus, Study
3 again finds that, when presented with both expressed and
evidence-based cues, African Americans’ feelings of fit,
authenticity, and perceived performance were influenced
only by the evidence-based cue.
However, we did not observe any effects of study condi-
tions (main effects or interactions) on participants’ actual
anagram performance in terms of the total number of correct
completions (all ps > .61) and the number of anagrams
attempted (all ps > .39), perhaps because the anagram task
was not viewed by participants as relevant to the information
provided about the organization. Of note, both the number of
correct completions and attempts were uncorrelated with
participants’ self-reported performance, as well as the other
study variables (all ps > .08). For interested readers, an
exploratory moderation analysis examining the effects of
ethnic identity and diversity dishonesty on actual anagram
performance is reported in the Supplemental Materials.
Study 4
In Study 4, we developed ostensibly real GlassDoor (a web-
site where current and former employees can provide anony-
mous reviews of companies) reviews about an organization,
to manipulate organizational climate perceptions using a
novel evidence-based cue. Scholars have noted that word-of-
mouth accounts of company diversity can shift organiza-
tional impressions, but little work has experimentally tested
these ideas in relation to workplace diversity. We also pro-
vided an evidence-based diversity cue about the organization
that had a negative valence (i.e., poor racial climate), rather
than a positive valence (i.e., brochure showing racial diver-
sity in workforce) as in Studies 2 and 3; we did not include a
positive evidence-based diversity cue in the form of a posi-
tive GlassDoor review because type of feedback is not com-
mon. We predicted that, consistent with the show-don’t-tell
hypothesis, an expressed cue demonstrating the company
does not value diversity would increase diversity dishonesty
(and decrease organizational fit, authenticity, and perceived
performance) expectations, regardless of the expressed cue.
Participants and Design
The study employed a 2 (expressed diversity cue: organiza-
tional brochure diversity message present vs. absent) × 2
(evidence-based diversity cue: negative organizational racial
climate vs. negative clients) between-subjects design.
African American/Black participants (N = 364; Mage =
25.69, SDage = 2.61; 275 cisgender women, 79 cisgender
men) were recruited through a Qualtrics panel in exchange
for US$0.75. Based on an a priori power analysis assuming a
small effect size, f(~.15), 80% power, α =.05, a numerator df
of 1, and four groups, we aimed to have a minimum of 351
participants in our analytic sample. Ten participants were
excluded for failing a manipulation check, because they
incorrectly reported the company addressed diversity in their
promotional materials when they did not, resulting in an ana-
lytic sample of n = 354.
Procedure and Materials
We followed the procedures outlined in Studies 1 to 3, and
participants completed the same measures of diversity dis-
honesty (α = .82), fit (α = .91), authenticity (α = .86), per-
ceived work performance (α = .93), and racial identification
(α = .73). Because we did not observe any effects of the
diversity statements in Studies 2 and 3, in Study 4 we adapted
the procedure in two ways. First, before evaluating the com-
pany, participants completed a “Work Skills and Preferences
Survey” to “match people with a company based on their
personalities.” Our goal in doing so was to facilitate partici-
pant engagement with the materials by providing them with
feedback that the company was particularly suited to their
skills and personality. Second, we developed new diversity
brochure materials to be sure the effects were not specific to
those materials. To manipulate our evidence-based diversity
cue, we created employee reviews from the popular work-
place review website, www.GlassDoor.com, to communicate
to participants the actual racial climate of the hypothetical
organization. In the evidence-based diversity cue condition,
the review tagline stated, “I was the token black employee
who they dragged around to meetings,” and the poster stated,
“I would not recommend this company to a friend—it’s not a
respectful environment for people of color.” In the evidence-
based cue control (e.g., client services) condition, the review
tagline stated, “management just wants to complete projects
and move on” and the poster stated, “Not a good place to
build a name for yourself with clients.”
Results and Discussion
Table 2 presents the descriptive statistics and inter-item cor-
relations between all primary variables. Consistent with
Studies 2 and 3, we found evidence in support of the show-
don’t-tell hypothesis. There were significant main effects of
our evidence-based diversity cue (i.e., organizational racial
climate) on perceptions of diversity dishonesty. When evalu-
ating a company whose GlassDoor reviews presented a nega-
tive organizational racial climate, participants reported more
negative diversity dishonesty assessments, F(1, 350) =
47.54, p < .001, ηp
2 = .12, 95% CI = [−1.47, −0.83],
Cohen’s d = .82 (see Figure 2), and lower ratings of
Wilton et al. 11
perceived fit, F(1, 350) = 59.65, p < .001, ηp
2 = .15, 95%
CI = [0.76, 1.25], Cohen’s d = .91, perceived authenticity,
F(1, 350) = 42.54, p < .001, ηp
2 = .11, 95% CI = [0.71,
1.46], Cohen’s d = .74, and perceived work performance,
F(1, 350) = 31.39, p < .001, ηp
2 = .08, 95% CI = [0.62,
1.42], Cohen’s d = .63, as compared with when evaluating a
company whose GlassDoor reviews presented a negative
organizational client environment. Participants reported that
they would fit in better at the organization with the diversity
(vs. client services) brochure, F(1, 350) = 3.89, p = .049,
ηp
2 = .01, 95% CI = [−0.31, 0.27], Cohen’s d = .14. Given
the 95% CIs included zero, the small effect size, the rela-
tively large p value, and the failure to replicate this finding in
other studies, we do not interpret this finding as meaningful.
There were no other significant main effects of (Fs < 3.75,
ps > .054) or interactions with (all Fs < 3.08, ps > .08) the
expressed diversity cue (i.e., organizational brochure) on any
of the dependent variables. The results remained consistent
when controlling for racial/ethnic identification (which did
not vary by condition; all ps > .65) in ANCOVAs. There
were no significant effects of participant gender, with the
exception that women reported significantly more authentic-
ity than men (p = .01); results remained consistent when
controlling for participant gender in ANCOVA. Means and
standard deviations of the dependent variables by study con-
dition are presented in Table 3 for the main effects and in
Table S4 for the interactions.
Studies 1 to 4: Exploratory Mediation
Analyses
We also explored whether the relation between overall diver-
sity dishonesty (across all conditions) and perceived work
performance was mediated by participants’ perceived organi-
zational fit and authenticity at work (Figure S1). We first used
Hayes’s (2018) PROCESS macro for bootstrapping media-
tion analysis (Model 4; 10,000 bootstrap samples) to examine
mediation. We centered all continuous predictors and added
diversity dishonesty as the predictor, perceived fit, and
authenticity as the mediators, and perceived performance as
the outcome. We also tested this serial mediation in an SEM
with latent variables using the SAS Proc CALIS and EffPart
procedures in Study 1, and using a path model incorporating
the effect of the evidence-based diversity cue (0 = non-
diverse workforce, 1 = diverse workforce) using the “EffPart”
procedure in SAS. All four studies demonstrated support for
the hypothesis that lower levels of overall diversity dishon-
esty (across all conditions) were associated with higher per-
ceived fit and authenticity, which, in turn, were associated
with better perceived performance (see Tables S5–S7). We
did not explore this mediation model on the actual anagram
performance variables measured in Study 3. These effects
were also consistent across studies when adding racial
identification to the models as a control variable. Because
these analyses were exploratory, and because we did not
manipulate our predicted mediators to provide support for a
causal relationship between the variables, we interpret these
results with caution. We report this information here (and
direct interested readers to read more about these findings in
the Supplemental Materials) to be transparent in communi-
cating this interesting and consistent post hoc finding. These
data suggest that diversity dishonesty can harm minorities’
perceived ability to perform at work, because they feel like
they have concerns about fitting in and being themselves in
the workplace.
General Discussion
Although most U.S. organizations express commitment to
diversity and inclusion, such efforts may backfire if they are
inaccurate or disconnected from the organization’s actual
diversity climate. In the current research, we investigate how
diversity dishonesty, an assessment that an organization is
falsely or incorrectly inflating its diversity in promotional
materials, affects racial and ethnic minorities in the work-
place. In Study 1, we documented that African American and
Latinx participants report diversity dishonesty with their cur-
rent workplaces, which significantly decreases their sense of
fit and authenticity (but not performance) at their organiza-
tion. In Studies 2 to 4, we examined whether two types of
organizational cues—expressed cues that ostensibly tell
observers about the organization’s diversity, and evidence-
based cues that show observers a glimpse of what the organi-
zation’s diversity is like—influence diversity dishonesty
beliefs. We consistently found, when provided with both
expressed and evidence-based cues about workplace diver-
sity, that evidence-based cues affect African Americans’
diversity dishonesty assessments, in both positive and nega-
tive directions. Evidence that an organization is diverse (a
racially diverse organizational chart) reduced diversity dis-
honesty, whereas evidence that an organization is not diverse
or inclusive (negative employee review of racial climate)
increased diversity dishonesty, relative to control conditions.
These experimentally induced increases or decreases in
diversity dishonesty coincided with respective increases or
decreases in perceived organizational fit, authenticity, and
perceived work performance at the hypothetical organization
(but not actual performance on an anagram test). These
effects were mainly associated with medium-to-large effect
sizes (Cohen’s ds ranging from .36 to .91), which suggests
that they are both statistically and practically significant
(Lakens, 2013). They were also robust to individual differ-
ences (in racial identification, SDO, and beliefs about diver-
sity), evidenced across both actual and imagined scenarios,
and generalized across various types of expressed and evi-
dence-based cues (i.e., brochures, videos, organizational
charts, employee reviews).
12 Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 00(0)
The current research deepens our understanding of how
diversity messages shape ethnic minorities’ beliefs about
organizations and themselves in organizational contexts. To
maximize ethnic minorities’ experiences at work, our find-
ings suggest that organizations should strive to “show,”
rather than “tell,” current and potential racial minority
employees how they value diversity and inclusion. And,
while it is important to acknowledge people’s subjective
experiences, our data underscore the need for companies to
truly foster diversity throughout all levels of the company,
because the observed diversity dishonesty assessments
reflected accurate assessments of the company’s objective
reality (i.e., the evidence-based cues). Most extant work
examines how various factors shape minorities’ preference
for an organization, which is mostly relevant for initial orga-
nizational impressions affecting recruitment. We examined
minorities’ beliefs about how they experience and anticipate
performing in said organization; diversity efforts begin with,
but must be sustained beyond, recruitment. Of course, we do
not suggest that organizations should cease portraying them-
selves as diverse and inclusive spaces in promotional materi-
als. However, our data underscore the complexities associated
with advertising diversity specifically and facilitating orga-
nizational diversity generally. Beyond making public state-
ments about being pro-diverse, organizations instead should
focus on being able to provide authentic evidence-based
information that they truly do foster a diverse and inclusive
climate where minorities can work and be successful. This
challenging work may require organizational introspection
or temporary discomfort while shifting or recommitting to
efficacy-based diversity management efforts. Yet, companies
can commit to developing, applying, and examining the
impact of diversity efforts (Kaiser & Quintanilla, 2014;
Kalev et al., 2006) and, in doing so, demonstrate evidence-
based information that may help minorities feel welcome
and perform well in certain spaces.
A particularly important question stemming from the cur-
rent research is how companies that truly wish to become
more diverse can avoid triggering minorities’ diversity dis-
honesty beliefs if they do not yet have a racially diverse
workplace (or another evidence-based cue that signals a
diverse climate). One potential way to accomplish this goal
is for an organization to emphasize its diversity goals in their
messaging, as opposed to claiming they already have posi-
tive diversity climates if they do not. In other related work,
organizational messages that emphasize that a human char-
acteristic (intelligence) can “increase over time as a function
of environmental factors and effort” influence people’s judg-
ments about the organization and themselves, compared with
organizational messages that focus on the same characteris-
tic as being rooted to a current and unchanging position (i.e.,
malleable vs. fixed construals of intelligence; Murphy &
Dweck, 2010, p. 285). In a similar manner, by emphasizing a
diversity goal that includes a clear and actionable plan to
move toward diversity goals, companies may increase the
perceived authenticity of their diversity claims and reduce
the extent to which racial and ethnic minorities expect to feel
vulnerable in the context. Organizations that lack diversity,
but are working toward achieving greater diversity, therefore
might benefit from communicating transparent, tangible
diversity-related goals and demonstrating that they are tak-
ing the concrete steps to address diversity issues.
In our data, we generally did not find that expressed cues,
either regardless of (“show-don’t-tell hypothesis”) or in con-
junction with (both “show-and-tell hypotheses”) explicit
cues, were the main drivers shifting ethnic minorities’ expec-
tations about how they will fit in, feel about being their
authentic selves, or perform at an organization. Because
diversity messages have become so commonplace in the
U.S. workforce, ethnic minorities may be less sensitive to
them than they were in the past (e.g., Dover et al., 2019).
Alternately, because we told participants they were review-
ing only part of the company’s materials, they may have
assumed the organization had a diversity message that they
did not review. There may also be an important individual
difference that we did not explore—such as chronic suspi-
ciousness (e.g., Major et al., 2013)—that might moderate the
extent to which expressed cues have a positive effect on eth-
nic minorities’ impressions of a workplace.
Future research should continue to examine how other
expressed and evidence-based cues influence diversity dis-
honesty perceptions, fit, and performance, as well as other
outcomes that may follow from this state. This work could
explore whether other evidence-based cues that have been
shown to be more (e.g., Chief Diversity Officer) or less (e.g.,
diversity training) effectively facilitate diversity goals (e.g.,
Kalev et al., 2006) trigger similar diversity dishonesty per-
ceptions among minorities. It should also aim to replicate
this research with other racial and ethnic minority groups
(e.g., Native Americans, Asians) or other social groups (e.g.,
women, sexual minorities) that experience disadvantage in
the workplace. Future work could also build on Study 1’s
finding that minorities can experience diversity dishonesty in
their current workplaces, by examining how diversity dis-
honesty beliefs develop over time (in longitudinal designs)
and link to real-world outcomes, such as retention and nego-
tiation strategies.
Conclusion
To address the systematic underrepresentation and under-
valuation of racial and ethnic minorities in the workplace, as
well as to help organizations benefit from a diversity of peo-
ple and perspectives, organizations often aim to recruit racial
and ethnic minorities. Organizations may elevate their diver-
sity claims to achieve these important objectives. Yet we
found consistent evidence across four studies that doing so
may have little impact on African Americans’ expectations
about the organization. Instead of merely “telling” people
that their workplace is diverse and inclusive, companies
Wilton et al. 13
should also commit to “showing” authentic evidence-based
indicators of effective diversity management processes.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect
to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
Funding
The author(s) received no financial support for the research, author-
ship, and/or publication of this article.
ORCID iD
Leigh S. Wilton https://orcid.org/0000-0001-9029-4505
Supplemental Material
Supplemental material is available online with this article.
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Many companies highlight their gender diversity, in part to signal positive attributes about the organization. We explored whether or not advertising gender diversity improves White men’s beliefs about an organization. In four studies, we found that White men expected a company to have a more broadminded and tolerant climate when the company noted it was gender diverse––and the gender diversity was described as including White women––as compared to when it did not address its gender diversity. In Studies 1 (n = 105), 2 (n = 101), and 3 (n = 151), a White gender-diverse organization was also viewed as more prestigious than an organization that did not address its gender diversity. In Studies 3 and 4 (n = 183), a gender-diverse company that highlighted a Black woman employee did not receive the same overall reputation boosts as the White gender-diverse company did. Our research indicates that companies that advertise their gender diversity may receive a boost to their reputation. We suggest that this research can inform organizational efforts to address gender diversity by encouraging companies to consider the intersection of gender and race in shaping both prejudicial attitudes and the experiences of minority groups. Additional online materials for this article are available onPWQ’s website at http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/suppl/10.1177/0361684318800264
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Three experiments supported the hypothesis that people are more willing to express attitudes that could be viewed as prejudiced when their past behavior has established their credentials as nonprejudiced persons. In Study 1, participants given the opportunity to disagree with blatantly sexist statements were later more willing to favor a man for a stereotypically male job. In Study 2, participants who first had the opportunity to select a member of a stereotyped group (a woman or an African American) for a category-neutral job were more likely to reject a member of that group for a job stereotypically suited for majority members. In Study 3, participants who had established credentials as nonprejudiced persons revealed a greater willingness to express a politically incorrect opinion even when the audience was unaware of their credentials. The general conditions under which people feel licensed to act on illicit motives are discussed.
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Past studies have found that multicultural approaches to diversity can reduce prejudice and stimulate positive intergroup relations. The current research explored a possible negative side effect of multiculturalism: whether organizational diversity structures geared toward multiculturalism can conceal racial discrimination and delegitimize racial discrimination claims. Three studies found that, even when objective information was indicative of discrimination, both Whites and racial minorities perceived organizations which had diversity policies emphasizing multiculturalism as more fair toward minorities. This perception of (false) fairness led individuals to perceive less racial discrimination and to view claims of racial discrimination against that organization as less legitimate. Furthermore, we found that organizational multiculturalism and externally granted diversity awards both produced a (false) fairness effect. The results suggest an irony of multicultural diversity structures: They can create a false fairness effect that conceals and delegitimizes discrimination.
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Traditionally, researchers have focused on identity-congruent safety cues such as the effect of gender diversity awards on women’s sense of inclusion in organizations. The present studies investigate, for the first time, whether identity safety cues (e.g., organizational diversity structures) aimed at one stigmatized group transfer via perceptions of the organization’s ideology (social dominance orientation), resulting in identity safety for individuals with stigmatized identities incongruent with the cue. Across four studies, we demonstrate that White women experience identity safety from organizational diversity structures aimed at racial minorities (Studies 1 and 2), and men of color experience identity safety from organizational diversity structures aimed at women (Study 3). Furthermore, while White men similarly perceive the organization’s ideology, this does not promote identity safety (Study 4). Thus, we argue that individuals view organizations commended for diversity as promoting more egalitarian attitudes broadly, resulting in the transference of identity safety cues for stigmatized individuals.
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We examined how formal organizational diversity policies affect minorities’ leadership-relevant self-perceptions and goals in two experiments. Organizational mission statements were manipulated to reflect policies acknowledging and valuing subgroup differences (Multiculturalism), de-emphasizing subgroup differences while valuing interindividual differences (Value-in-Individual Differences), or de-emphasizing differences in favor of an overarching group membership (Value-in-Homogeneity). Study 1 (N = 162) showed that, compared with Value-in-Homogeneity policies, Multiculturalism or Value-in-Individual Differences policies increase perceptions of an open diversity climate, which in turn enhance leadership self-efficacy of situational minority employees. Focusing on racial–ethnic minority and majority employees, Study 2 (N = 119) replicated and extended these findings by revealing similar results on anticipated leadership self-efficacy, positive outcome expectations, and the willingness to apply for higher level leadership positions.