Eliminating the Triggers for Code-Switching at Work

Dr. David & Sonia Zweig & Kang, D. Zweig - Associate Professor, OBHRM/S. Kang - Associate Professor, OB/HRM

Mentor: Dr. David & Sonia Zweig & Kang

D. Zweig – Associate Professor, OBHRM/S. Kang – Associate Professor, OB/HRM


Project Description

Code switching encompasses a range of behaviours and actions (e.g., adapting speech or hairstyles) to optimize the comfort of others in exchange for fair treatment and equitable employment opportunities (McCluney et al., 2019). This project examines code-switching among employees from traditionally-underrepresented groups, with an emphasis on the experience of Black employees. Everyone feels pressure to code-switch, but this pressure is experienced more chronically by individuals whose identity groups are underrepresented and devalued. If Black employees are feeling the need to code-switch, it is likely because they do not feel valued at work. Our focus will not be on asking Black people to stop code-switching. Rather, we focus on code-switching as a symptom of a non-inclusive workplace culture. The SROP Student will work with us on the first phase of the project, developing an inventory of code-switching behaviours among underrepresented group members and creating a large-scale survey of these members at a large Canadian financial institution. We will identify the subtle and not-so-subtle ways that managers and leaders perpetuate feelings of exclusion and signal to Black employees that they need to engage in code-switching. Using this data, we will design an intervention for leaders to identify their own actions that promote code-switching and how to avoid them. Finally, we will help to create a psychologically-safe working environment where code-switching is reduced, where diversity in varied aspects of appearance, dress, and communication are truly accepted, and where Black employees can focus on their performance, and not how they are being perceived.

Mentorship Statement

My philosophy toward student mentorship is fairly simple. I want to create opportunities for students to learn about every aspect of the research endeavor – from idea generation to theory development, hypothesis building and testing, to manuscript writing. I hold weekly meetings with my students and adopt a contingent approach to my mentorship style – adapting my mentorship based on the needs and abilities of the student and on what they are asked to do. If the SROP student and the situation requires more frequent mentoring, I will offer it. If the student is thriving and accomplishing work independently, I will offer more autonomy. In short, my collaborator (Sonia Kang) and I will work as closely as is needed or desired, but always with an eye to ensuring that we are responding to the student’s needs and helping them to achieve their goals to learn more about research.

Project ID 753