Original Research

Multiculturalism in the workplace: Model and test

Leon T.B. Jackson, Fons J.R. van de Vijver
SA Journal of Human Resource Management | Vol 16 | a908 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajhrm.v16i0.908 | © 2018 Leon T.B. Jackson, Fons J.R. Van De Vijver | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 30 January 2017 | Published: 04 September 2018

About the author(s)

Leon T.B. Jackson, WorkWell Research Unit for Economics and Management Sciences, North-West University, South Africa
Fons J.R. van de Vijver, WorkWell Research Unit for Economics and Management Sciences, North-West University, South Africa; and, School of Psychology, University of Queensland, Australia; and, Department of Culture Studies, Tilburg University, the Netherlands

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Orientation: This article addresses the role of multiculturalism in employee attitudes.

Research purpose: It proposes a model of positive features of multiculturalism in organisations and tests it in South Africa. The model postulates three levels in multiculturalism: antecedent conditions, such as multiculturalism practices and norms that define the diversity climate; mediators, such as diversity-enhancing employee attitudes; and positive work outcomes.

Motivation for the study: South Africans from diverse backgrounds hardly meet in their private spaces. Given this forced contact in the workplace and the calls for national unity and social cohesion, we propose that a workplace that is characterised by mutual respect, accommodation and tolerance for difference could have a positive impact on employee work attitudes.

Research approach/design and method: A quantitative approach was adopted using survey questionnaires that were distributed to employees selected on the basis of convenience sampling (N = 299) in various workplaces.

Main findings: A multi-group path analysis confirmed the validity of the model for the white, black and mixed race ethnic groups. Although the differences were negligible to medium, white groups seemed to experience a slightly more favourable multicultural environment compared to black and mixed race groups.

Practical/managerial implications: All dimension scores were well above the mid-point of the scale, which suggests that psychometrically speaking, the multicultural climate, ethnic integration orientations and employee attitudes are experienced by these employees as favourable.

Contribution/value-add: From a conceptual perspective, the model implies that the more distal variable of a multicultural climate influences employee attitudes through a set of more proximal integration attitudes and practices. From a practical perspective, an inclusive climate has more distal characteristics such as the general multiculturalism climate and more proximal characteristics such as ethnic vitality.


multiculturalism; ethnic integration; work success; organisational commitment; job satisfaction


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