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Perceptions, Evaluations, and Effects of Resource and Demand Inequality in the Workplace

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Title: Perceptions, Evaluations, and Effects of Resource and Demand Inequality in the Workplace
Author: Gnanakumaran, Vishi
Department: Department of Psychology
Program: Psychology
Advisor: Son Hing, Leanne
Abstract: Inequality in our society has been shown to have a negative effect on social, health and well-being outcomes, but inequality in the workplace is much less understood (Magee & Galinsky, 2008). Although perfect equality of distributions in the workplace is neither practical nor desirable, too much inequality of job resources (aspects of work that are needed to do one’s job or contribute to personal development) and job demands (aspects of work that require sustained effort) can lead to negative outcomes for both employees and organizations. The main purpose of this dissertation is to build a theory of workplace inequality, identify factors that feed into it, and explore what its consequences are. To explore how employees understand and make sense of the inequality they perceive in the workplace, I conducted qualitative interviews with 30 medical faculty at a pediatric health sciences centre. The purpose of the interviews was to determine which resource and demand inequalities are most important in the workplace, how employees judge the legitimacy of the inequality they perceive, and the valence of their attitudes towards it. In order to draw more general conclusions beyond individual participants’ experiences, I conducted a thematic analysis of the data. I supplemented this analysis with a matrix analysis to determine whether those higher in the hierarchy perceived or reacted to workplace inequality differently than those lower in the hierarchy. There were several resource inequalities that participants were particularly sensitive to, including research and clinical equipment, administrative support, training opportunities, formal recognition, and the leadership of division heads. On the demand inequalities side, participants were sensitive to scheduling flexibility, clinical workload, conflict climate, and the pressure to perform academically. The matrix analysis showed that even though participants at all levels felt affected by inequality, those at the bottom of the hierarchy perceived more inequality and were more negative towards it than those at the top. Participants also reacted more negatively towards inequality among individuals compared to inequality among divisions, and resource inequality compared with demand inequality. Implications of these findings for theory, practice, and future research are discussed.
Date: 2019-09
Rights: Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International
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Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International Except where otherwise noted, this item's license is described as Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International