Diversity and Inclusion Efforts Fail Employees of Chinese Descent during COVID
A new study published in Harvard Business Review found that some workplace diversity and inclusion policies, namely those that encouraged workers to bring their whole selves to work, ended up backfiring during the COVID-19 pandemic by making North American employees of Chinese descent more likely to be the targets of mistreatment.
The study, titled “Why Some D&I Efforts Failed Employees of Chinese Descent”, was co-authored by Winny Shen, Associate Professor of Organization Studies, and Ivona Hideg, Associate Professor and Ann Brown Chair in Organization Studies, together with Janice Lam and Christianne Varty, two Schulich PhD students, and Anja Krstic, Assistant Professor in the School of Human Resource Management at York University.
Their research involved conducting a series of in-depth surveys during May 2020 with approximately 250 East and Southeast Asian workers in the United States and Canada. The surveys asked participants about their organizations’ diversity initiatives, and their experiences with mistreatment at work due to prejudice associated with COVID-19.
Although study participants who reported that their organizations invested more in diversity and inclusion policies generally experienced fewer incidents of mistreatment, this was not true for Asian workers of Chinese descent. In turn, workers who experienced more of these hateful acts felt more burned out, reported poorer job performance, and expressed a greater desire to leave their organization.
“When people are scared and uncertain during a novel threat such as COVID-19, they often look for someone to blame – and during the pandemic, the role of scapegoat has often fallen on people of Chinese descent,” said Shen, the lead researcher.