A time-lagged investigation of the impact of coworker behavior on the effects of demographic dissimilarity

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Journal of Organizational Behavior


© 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Although it is clear that coworker absenteeism, tardiness, and turnover can influence an employee's actions, scholars have yet to consider the impact of relational demography on the adoption of these behavioral norms. Inspired by social identity, situational strength, and attraction-selection-attrition theories, we proposed that individuals who differ from their coworkers in age, sex, or racioethnicity would feel threatened by their outnumbered status and subsequently motivated to be absent, tardy, or more likely to turnover. However, we expected coworker withdrawal behavior to moderate whether or not dissimilar personnel act on these desires. Results from hierarchical multilevel modeling analyses of data from 470 U.S. call center workers nested in 51 work groups revealed that racioethnic dissimilarity was positively related to time-lagged changes in absenteeism and tardiness as well as heightened turnover likelihood. These effects emerged only among employees whose coworkers engaged in greater withdrawal behavior. Importantly, racioethnically dissimilar employees working in more permissive climates (i.e., those with high levels of coworker absenteeism, tardiness, or turnover) exhibited the greatest increases in absenteeism and tardiness over three months and had the highest supervisor-rated turnover likelihood. Implications for diversity management are discussed.

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