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Relational Demography, Linguistic Diversity, and Workplace Attitudes Open Access

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Recent increases in the Spanish-speaking Hispanic population have led to a transformation of the American workplace where English and Spanish-speakers must work together to accomplish common goals despite speaking different languages. Relational demography theory suggests that shifts in the relative proportions of ethnic and linguistic groups should impact employee attitudes regarding their working experiences. The current study examines whether differing proportions of Spanish-speaking employees impacts Spanish and English-speakers' views of their coworkers and advancement opportunities. Relational demography research would suggest that large populations of Spanish speakers would negatively impact the attitudes of English-speaking coworkers and positively impact the attitudes of Spanish-speaking employees. In addition, this study examines whether linguistic and ethnic diversity produce independent effects on employee attitudes, and whether these relationships are suppressed by employee perceptions of their senior management as just.Employee attitudes and demographics were measured using survey data collected from hourly employees at 260 U.S. locations of a large service organization with varying percentages of English and Spanish-speaking employees. Results suggest that the proportion of Spanish-speaking employees influences the attitudes of both Spanish and English-speaking employees. However, the direction of this influence depends on other contextual factors, such as intent to stay and employee opinion of immediate supervisors. These factors shape employee interpretations of linguistic diversity and suggest that relational demography theory may need to be expanded to take such factors into account.

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