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Workplace discrimination. Rethinking the future of work: an interview with Adrienne J. Colella and Eden B. King on the OUPblog

Rethinking the future of work: an interview with Adrienne J. Colella and Eden B. King

Introducing the editors of The Oxford Handbook of Workplace Discrimination: Adrienne J. Colella is Professor and the McFarland Distinguished Chair in Business at Tulane University, and Eden B. King is Associate Professor of Industrial Organizational Psychology at George Mason University. Their work synthesizes research across psychology, sociology, and management, and inspires a new era of scientific practice on understanding and reducing workplace discrimination.

Adrienne and Eden share their insights on workplace discrimination and the future of work. 

What can organizations do to tackle workplace discrimination?

Workplace discrimination cannot be eradicated by a single policy or process. Instead, organizations need to develop strategic, comprehensive initiatives that cut across levels, units, and talent management cycles. Aligned with such strategy, leaders need to be visibly committed and held accountable to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Ongoing transparent assessment and accountability for DEI will help to ensure positive change. Finally, organizations need to create and sustain a culture where respect, empathy, and justice are core values.  

“Leaders need to be visibly committed and held accountable to diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

How can academic research practically reduce discrimination within organizations?    

Academic research can help to inform practice by providing robust evidence regarding the unique experiences of people who face discrimination as well as the strategies that are most effective in addressing these issues. In other words, good science can inform good practice. 

How do we develop and support the next generation of leaders in a more remote world?

Leader development requires the opportunity to engage in a variety of challenging tasks and to receive feedback about performance. The specific nature of the experiences, and the ways in which feedback is transmitted, are constantly evolving with technology and the environment. At the core, then, leader development will be the same—challenging tasks and feedback—but the conditions will evolve. It is yet to be seen whether the nature of leadership and the traits and behaviors which make leaders effective will also change in a more remote world. 

How does increased flexibility impact employees and organizations?

Like most things, the increase in remote work has both positive and negative implications. On the positive side, many people have found flexibility for opportunities to engage with family and leisure activities. In addition, people with disabilities and chronic health conditions have found better access to work. On the negative side, however, remote work can create challenges for human connections, increase loneliness, and blur the lines between work and home in a manner that is exhausting. And, of course, many types of work (especially low wage jobs) cannot be done remotely, potentially exacerbating socioeconomic divides. Experience and evidence in the upcoming months and years will help us understand for whom, how, when, and where flexibility can yield the most positive effects.

What do you think the world of work will look like in 10 years? 

Given the rapid, unexpected changes we have experienced in the last few years, this question is really difficult to answer. We expect that rapid advances in technology will come with both unforeseen advantages and disadvantages for employers and employees and that the notion of “going to work” will change. Beyond this, we can’t predict. 

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Feature image credit: Canva

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