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Ethnic homophily perceptions as an emergent IHRM challenge: evidence from firms operating in Sri Lanka during the ethnic conflict


  • Lee, Hyun-Jung
  • Reade, Carol


Ethnic conflict is a defining characteristic of the post-Cold War era and is prevalent particularly in emerging economies, areas of increasing interest to multinational enterprises. Yet little is known about the international human resource management challenges arising from such societal context. Utilizing social identity theory, we propose that ethnic homophily perceptions in the workplace – an employee's assessment that colleagues prefer working with ethnically similar others – is a reflection of the societal context and can be detrimental to the organization if not managed appropriately. We investigate whether contact theory offers insights to manage such perceptions. Drawing on a sample of 550 managers in Sri Lanka during a period of protracted ethnic conflict, we found that employee sensitivity to ethnic conflict in the societal context is positively related to ethnic homophily perceptions in the workplace, and that both ethnic diversity in workgroups and quality of work relationships serve to reduce perceptions of ethnic homophily.

Suggested Citation

  • Lee, Hyun-Jung & Reade, Carol, 2015. "Ethnic homophily perceptions as an emergent IHRM challenge: evidence from firms operating in Sri Lanka during the ethnic conflict," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 59971, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:59971

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Riccardo Peccei & Hyun-Jung Lee, 2005. "The Impact of Gender Similarity on Employee Satisfaction at Work: A Review and Re-Evaluation," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 42(8), pages 1571-1592, December.
    2. Hyun-Jung Lee & Riccardo Peccei, 2007. "Organizational-Level Gender Dissimilarity and Employee Commitment," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 45(4), pages 687-712, December.
    3. Reade, Carol & Lee, Hyun-Jung, 2012. "Organizational Commitment in Time of War: Assessing the Impact and Attenuation of Employee Sensitivity to Ethnopolitical Conflict," Journal of International Management, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 85-101.
    4. Bader, Benjamin & Berg, Nicola, 2013. "An Empirical Investigation of Terrorism-induced Stress on Expatriate Attitudes and Performance," Journal of International Management, Elsevier, vol. 19(2), pages 163-175.
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    Cited by:

    1. Reade, Carol & Lee, Hyun-Jung, 2016. "Does ethnic conflict impede or enable employee innovation behavior? The alchemic role of collaborative conflict management," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 65613, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.

    More about this item


    contact theory; emerging economies; ethnic conflict; homophily perceptions; social identity theory; Sri Lanka;

    JEL classification:

    • J50 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining - - - General

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