How African American women handle conflict in the workplace: An assessment of the impact of race, gender and class
Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Dr. Shereen G. Bingham
Dr. James Conyers
Dr. Hollis Glaser
This study investigated the impact of race, gender, and class oppression the conflict experiences and conflict-handling styles of African American women in the workplace. Conflict styles are one of the most frequently discussed topics in the literature on conflict resolution. Researchers have developed typologies of conflict styles and have examined how situational, relational, organizational, and personality factors influence the conflict styles of individuals. Few studies, however, have considered the ways in which race/ethnic, gender, and class oppression affect conflict-handling behavior. Some studies have taken an “add-on” approach to understanding the impact of oppression by treating the effects of race, gender, and class as separate variables that can be simply added together. However, these studies fail to deal with the simultaneous effects of oppression that African American women experience daily. Recent theories suggest that African American women are likely to encounter different, perhaps more complex, conflict-inducing experiences than others such as white men and women. Ten African American women from various socioeconomic backgrounds and professions in Omaha, Nebraska were selected for the study. All of the women were in some form of management in their organizations. They all were college educated, three had Master’s degrees and two had Ph.D. degrees. An in-depth interview was conducted with each woman, and thematic analysis was used to summarize their responses. Eight major themes emerged from the interview data. The themes dealt with a range of issues, which included: 1) use of the five conflict-handling styles; 2) a mistrust of their White male counterparts; 3) race and gender are inseparable elements in a conflict; 4) dealing with stereotypes in the workplace; 5) White males are treated different than African American women; 6) disrespect for their positions in the corporation; 7) the isolation of the solo status in the workplace; 8) a tradition of resistance to oppressive elements. The study concludes that the current literature on conflict styles is inadequate for African American women dealing with conflict. Racism, sexism, and classism are oppressive elements that continue to effect the experiences of African American women in the workplace. The study exposes a gap in the present conflict styles literature involving whether, and how, the simultaneous effects of race, gender, and class oppression influence one’s conflict-handling styles. It suggests an alterative, interactive approach to studying African American women’s conflict experiences. The approach emphasizes oppression, cultural hegemony, and standpoint theories, and offers a foundation for developing a comprehensive oppression conflict resolution theory for African American women.
Jenkins, Karen, "How African American women handle conflict in the workplace: An assessment of the impact of race, gender and class" (1997). Student Work. 731.
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A Thesis Presented to the Department of Communication and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts University of Nebraska at Omaha. Copyright 1997, Karen Jenkins