Affective Commitment to Diversity, Racial Diversity, and Workplace Creativity

Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Exhibit Hall RC Poster Sessions (Tampa Convention Center)
George B. Cunningham, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX
Purpose: Managerial theories of diversity suggest that differences among organizational employees allows for greater creativity in the decision making process, which ultimately improves performance. However, these effects might not be realized when institutional support for diversity is not present. That is, organizations that do not demonstrate an affective commitment to diversity (i.e., show a desire to support diversity because of the belief in its inherent benefits) are unlikely to leverage diversity's positive effects. On the other hand, when affective commitment to diversity is high, the relationship between diversity and creativity should be augmented. The purpose of this study was to consider this possibility by investigating the interactive effects of racial diversity and affective commitment to diversity on creativity in the context of university athletics.

Methods: Data were collected via questionnaire from 910 athletic administrators from NCAA Division I universities. Participants completed a questionnaire in which they provided the demographics of their department (which were used to compute the department's diversity) and responded to items measuring their affective commitment to diversity and the creativity of the department.

Analysis/Results: As the hypothesis was concerned with the athletic department, as a whole, data were aggregated to the group level of analysis, thereby reducing the sample to 258 athletic departments. Regression analysis was employed to test the predicted relationships. The size of the department (i.e., total operating budget, number of head coaches) served as controls, affective commitment to diversity and racial diversity were entered in the second step, and the interaction between the latter variables was entered in the final step. Creativity served as the dependent variable. As predicted, both affective commitment and racial diversity were positively associated with creativity, as was the interaction term. Simple slope analysis indicated that creativity was low when racial diversity was high, but the affective commitment to diversity was low. However, creativity was highest when both affective commitment to diversity and racial diversity were high.

Conclusions: Findings from the study point to the value of an affective commitment to diversity, as absent such support, racial diversity impeded performance. Thus, athletic administrators should engender such a commitment within their workplace. In drawing from commitment theory, several options are possible, including increasing people's intrinsic motivation to pursue that course of action, allowing them to recognize the value of diversity, and/or encouraging them to derive part of their personal identity from workplace diversity.