Date of Award

5-1-2017

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Komarraju, Meera

Abstract

The racial diversification of the labor force in the United States has led to numerous studies examining the barriers that people of color experience in the workplace, such as challenges in the advancement to managerial positions (Alcocer Guardado, 2014; Landau, 1995; Maume, 1999; Rosette, Leonardelli, & Phillips, 2008). Research on leadership categorization theory, which posits that individuals use specific attributes to categorize someone as a leader (Lord, Foti, & Phillips, 1982), have also suggested that Whiteness is an attribute for the leader prototype, which negatively affects the perception of people of color as leaders (Rosette et al., 2008). While research has also shown that culturally diverse managers are perceived as more effective when they show cultural adaptation and exhibit American managerial behaviors (Thomas & Ravlin, 1995), there is a lack of research examining the impact of acculturation on leader perception. The current study sought to close some of the gaps in the literature of leader perceptions for people of color by examining the impact and the interplay of acculturation and race on the perception of leaders of color. Participants were asked to rate their perception of a leader (White/French or Latino/Honduran) who was either a third-generation immigrant (high acculturation) or a first-generation immigrant (low acculturation) working as a manager for a non-profit service provider or a financial services provider in the United States. Data for 271 participants was collected using a Qualtrics survey through Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk), an Internet marketplace, in order to get a more socioeconomically diverse background sample (Casler, Bickel, & Hackett, 2013). Data were analyzed using MANOVA procedures and the results showed a significant main effect for acculturation level (high acculturation vs. low acculturation) on leader perception. Specifically, highly acculturated leaders were perceived as being more ready for promotion than less acculturated leaders who were equally qualified, regardless of race. The cultural background of highly acculturated leaders was perceived as more valuable for networking, leadership success, and overall company success than the cultural background of less acculturated leaders who were equally qualified, regardless of race. Results suggest there is an implicit preference for employees who are more acculturated being favored for leadership positions, regardless of their race.

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