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[Excerpt] In what follows we present a systems model of discrimination at the level of the organization. We elaborate the model shown in Figure 1 and illustrate the ways in which aspects of organizations – including formal and informal structure, organizational culture, leadership, strategy, human resource systems, and organizational climates – may contribute to or attenuate discrimination. As depicted in Figure 1 and as discussed in detail in previous chapters, the relationship between these organizational-level processes and actual levels of discrimination is necessarily mediated by individual cognitions and interpersonal behaviors. Furthermore, we recognize that organizations do not exist in a vacuum but rather they exchange resources and information with the environment. To fully attend to the implications of this point, we utilize an open-systems model of organizations (Katz & Kahn, 1978) to briefly discuss inputs from the environment and organizational outputs to the environment. Thus, we begin below with a brief overview of environmental factors such as the legal, economic, and social environment that serve as inputs into the organization that are relevant to the phenomenon of discrimination. Then, the major section of the chapter is devoted to a detailed analysis of the existing literature on discrimination at the level of the organization. This exploration is accomplished through examination of six different organizational throughputs: organizational structure, organizational culture, leadership, strategy, HR systems, and organizational climate. We then briefly discuss some of the outcomes associated with organizational discrimination and the ways in which these outputs are then fed back into the environment in which organizations function. Finally, we conclude with future directions for the study of discrimination at the organizational level.


Suggested Citation
Gelfand, M. J., Nishii, L. H., Raver, J. L. & Schneider, B. (2007). Discrimination in organizations: An organizational-level systems perspective (CAHRS Working Paper #07-08). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University, School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies.