Positive Acculturation Conditions and Well-Being in a Mine in the North-West Province

By Jackson, Leon T. B.; van de Vijver, Fons J. R. et al. | SA Journal of Industrial Psychology, January 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Positive Acculturation Conditions and Well-Being in a Mine in the North-West Province


Jackson, Leon T. B., van de Vijver, Fons J. R., Ali, Shanaz, SA Journal of Industrial Psychology


Introduction

The 1994 democratic elections have brought a new order to South Africa which encapsulates the protection of human rights. The fundamental goal of the African National Congress (ANC) remains to construct a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic society in South Africa. Increasingly, South African organisations are implementing employment equity and affirmative action programmes as organisations commit themselves to a process of redressing previous imbalances, because of discriminatory legislation, which has resulted in a very diverse workforce composition. These trends pave the way for multiculturalism as the dominant strategy for dealing with pluralism in South African society.

Multiculturalism is expected to have positive effects on ethnic groups and on intergroup relations. Although multiculturalism has been recommended as an effective intervention at societal and local levels, little is known about its effects in organisations (Richeson & Nussbaum, 2004; Wolsko, Park, Judd & Wittenbrink, 2000). It has been suggested that the impact of multiculturalism may differ between ethnic minority and majority groups. Bekker and Leildé (2004), in attempting to answer the question'Is multiculturalism a working policy in South Africa?' concluded that it appears that multiculturalism, both as a policy and as an outcome, has had a measure of success in the new South Africa. However, multiculturalism has been criticised on several grounds. Some have suggested that multiculturalism can lead to group distinctions, conflict and separatism (Brewer, 1997) whilst others have argued that multiculturalism endangers social unity and cohesion, and it also contradicts individualism and the ideal of meritocracy (Barry, 2001; Bissoondath, 1994; Schlesinger, 1992). Given the divergent views about the benefits of multiculturalism it seems relevant and important to investigate its relationship with well-being in a diverse workforce. Relating to this, acculturation studies focus on issues arising when groups or individuals from different cultures come into continuous first-hand contact with one another, with subsequent changes taking place in the original cultural patterns of either or both groups.

Our theoretical framework draws on a mediation model of acculturation (Arends-Tóth & Van de Vijver, 2006). Predictors in the model, called multicultural conditions, refer to contextual conditions with a presumed influence on multicultural orientations, such as descriptive norms about the need to adopt and appreciate multiculturalism in a culturally diverse group. Mediating variables, called integration (orientations), refer to the way that individuals perceive their environment as either preferring to embrace multiculturalism (aimed at an integration of ethnic groups) or segregation (aimed at independent co-existence of ethnic groups); thus, our argument is that perceived practices and norms, vis-à-vis multiculturalism, will create perceived demands (to integrate or segregate) on the individual. These norms and practices (as antecedents to the research) and perceived demands (as mediating variables) will influence the outcomes of the process, such as well-being and work performance. The present study examines the multicultural model in a mine in the North-West Province and addresses differences in support for multiculturalism amongst Black employees and White employees.

The current study differs from conventional acculturation studies that include mainstream majority and immigrant minority groups. However, Jansen (2011) cautioned against the use of the term 'minority' because South Africans are building a common identity as citizens of a new country, where they no longer refer to each other by skin colour or demographic count, but by allegiance to higher values and commitments. He also warned that the term 'majority', in the new South Africa, should not be mistakenly interpreted as Black or African people, which is in line with our conceptualisation of the acculturation of ethnic groups in relation to the evolving new national identity. …

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