“Some like it hot!”: The role of emotion and identity in interpreting and responding to diversity as a strategic issue.
Although the business case for diversity has been well established, efforts to recognize diversity as a strategic issue and to implement diversity initiatives have often been thwarted. We consider diversity to be a strategic issue as it can have an important impact on organizational performance (Ansoff, 1980). However, the response to diversity as a strategic issue is subject to interpretation on the part of both decision-makers and those concerned with the implementation of those decisions. We argue that diversity is a “hot issue” because of its potential to evoke strong emotions. The cognitive antecedents which determine these emotions are, in fact, similar to those that lead to interpretation of strategic issues as threats or opportunities. This may help to explain how emotions are linked to strategic issue interpretation, to the decisions taken, and the likely responses to those decisions. We propose that individuals’ salient identities can influence how diversity as a strategic issue and diversity initiatives are interpreted in ways that elicit specific emotions and different categories of emotion. These emotions in turn will lead to behaviors, such as resistance or support for this issue and the proposed initiatives. Implications for leadership are discussed.
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