I am currently working on three research projects that examine the relationship between identity and career behavior.
Diversity embracement. In 2017, the Center for Business Ethics at Seattle University named me an Inaugural Fellow and provided a grant to examine diversity embracement. Never heard of it? Diversity embracement is a product of my deep interest in diversity resistance (Thomas, 2008) and positive organizational scholarship (Cameron & Dutton, 2003). Specifically, we want to better understand how people within organizations, from demographically different backgrounds, come to appreciate and even fight for diversity initiatives that make workplaces more just, more inclusive, and more productive.
At this point, we're still working on the definition of embracement but here's a teaser for you. Diversity embracement is the process of reconstructing one’ identity to include one or more embracing role-identities for interacting across difference. My research on diversity embracement seeks to answer two questions. First, "What causes people who are demographically different from the dominant group to feel they belong within organizations?" Second, "What is being embraced during this the process of embracement?" We're still working through these ideas and welcome your input. Here's a link to an interview with Dr. Jeffery Smith, the Director the Seattle University Center for Business Ethics, that describes more: https://www.seattleu.edu/business/centers-and-programs/center-for-business-ethics/ethics-matters/. My colleagues on this project include Jason Kanov (Western Washington University) and our research assistants, Trinity Covington, and Kaitlyn Blakely.
Organizational safe spaces. In January, 2018, I had the honor of moderating a panel on diversity which included three women from Seattle-based businesses. At the end of the conversation, a student asked: What do organizations like yours do to ensure safety for employees? I found this a most profound question. What did the student mean by safety? How is safety managed within work environments? In truth, we've seen the media report on debates about safe spaces within universities (https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/articles/2017-09-21/colleges-tackle-free-speech-trigger-warnings-safe-spaces), but I think the management literature (conducted by faculty within business schools) is quite nascent. Trinity Covington and I are hoping to add our voices to this conversation. We've already suggested that there are three types of safety (psychological, material, and physical). Stay tuned! We'll blog on this website as the research develops.
Accidental careers. In this study, Cheryl Carr (Belmont University) and I collected data from 12 professionals to understand more about career construction. First, the study respondents wrote narratives detailing their career experiences. Next, we conducted semi-structured interviews with each respondent to elicit more information concerning their interpretations of life events and subsequent career behavior. We discovered that careers are constructed as a result of incidental learning, often due to unplanned or unexpected events, and intentional career decision making and movement throughout the lifespan. We discovered that as incidental learning occurs, people frame their career experiences in a variety of ways including as a period of darkness, an opportunity to live out a childhood fantasy and as the "best of times, the worst of times." Career frames guide future career decisions.