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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

An Interpretive Phenomenological Study of the Lived Experiences of African American Attorneys with Racial Microaggressions and the Effect on Motivation
by Rucker, Kuryakin C., Ph.D., Sullivan University, 2021, 143; 28323744
Abstract (Summary)

Workplace racial discrimination has evolved in the years since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 from blatant discrimination that denied African Americans the ability to work for certain employers or within certain jobs or professions to a subtler, more insidious discrimination that includes racial microaggressions. Companies have attempted to reduce or eliminate blatant racial discrimination through workplace policies, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 provides financial incentives for companies to do so, but microaggressions and other forms of subtle discrimination remain. This study examined the lived experiences of African American attorneys who have been subjected to racial microaggressions in the law firm workplace and explored the impact of racial microaggressions on the attorneys’ motivation, as well as the coping strategies they used.

This study utilized an interpretive phenomenological methodology, where ten participants were interviewed, their interview data was separated into eight a priori and 13 emergent codes, and those codes were grouped into four themes: interpersonal microaggressions, structural/environmental microaggressions, impacts, and coping mechanisms. Vroom’s Expectancy Theory, as modified by Lawler and Lloyd and Mertens provided the theoretical basis for the analysis of motivation and Critical Race Theory served as the theoretical foundation of the study.

Analysis concluded that the participants experienced both short-term decline in motivation after experiencing an interpersonal microaggression, and long-term loss of motivation due to the exposure to structural/environmental microaggressions. Interpersonal microaggressions interfered with social impact as described by Lloyd and Mertens by interrupting the ability of the participants to form trust relationships with their colleagues. Structural/environmental microaggressions cut the link between what Lawler described as Expectancy I (effort will lead to a given performance) and Expectancy II (performance will lead to a given outcome). Participants utilized coping mechanisms that resembled the strategies employed by victims of workplace bullying.

Law firms should adopt policies that prohibit interpersonal racial microaggressions as a form of racial harassment, and work to eliminate structural/environmental microaggressions by changing organizational culture to promote inclusivity. Law firm leadership include a commitment to diversity and inclusion in firm vision and mission statements, as well as statements of organizational values. Leaders should also model inclusive practices to set expectations that will prompt change throughout the firm.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Wilkin, LaVena
Commitee: Daniel, Teresa, Merrifield, Heather
School: Sullivan University
Department: Human Resource Leadership
School Location: United States -- Kentucky
Source: DAI-A 82/9(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Management, African American Studies, Ethnic studies, Law
Keywords: African American attorneys, Critical Race Theory, Human Resources, Microaggressions, Motivation, Race
Publication Number: 28323744
ISBN: 9798597014395
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