Three social dilemmas of workforce diversity in organizations: A social identity perspective

Sherry K. Schneider, Gregory B. Northcraft

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper explores the relationship among three social dilemmas faced by organizations wishing to attain and maintain workforce diversity: the dilemmas of organizational participation, managerial participation, and individual participation. Functional and social category diversity offer benefits for organizations (creativity, adaptation and innovation, and access to external networks), but there are costs which deter organizations from pursuing these benefits. The costs associated with organizational participation in diversity initiatives arise because managers and their employees perceive organizational conflicts and organize their interactions along social identity lines, so that temporal traps and collective fences surround diversity. Resolving the subordinate dilemmas of managerial and individual participation provides the key to resolving the dilemma of organizational participation. Social identity theory is used to understand the dilemmas and to develop possible resolutions, which should make the benefits of diversity more immediately accessible to organizations and society.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1445-1467
Number of pages23
JournalHuman Relations
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1999


  • Diversity
  • Group processes
  • Social dilemmas
  • Social identity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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