Date of Award


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Psychology, PhD


School of Social Science, Politics, and Evaluation

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Richard M. Ryan

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Rebecca J. Reichard

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Michelle Bligh

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Stewart I. Donaldson

Terms of Use & License Information

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Rights Information

© 2024 Anne Brafford


Diversity, Identity, Inclusion, Inclusive leadership, Self-Determination Theory

Subject Categories

Business | Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion | Human Resources Management | Organizational Behavior and Theory


The concept of inclusion holds unrealized potential as a guiding framework for supporting employees of all identities in achieving their potential at work and improving organizational diversity. The underdevelopment of the concept’s definition, theoretical foundation, measures, and expected outcomes has hindered its positive impact. For example, scholarly attention has focused primarily on social identity theories to define inclusion at the group level, leaving other identity types and theories underexplored. To help address these issues, Article One of this two-article dissertation synthesizes identity, self-determination theory (SDT), and inclusion literature to provide a theoretical basis for the new identity harmony model of inclusion (IHMI). Under this model, employees’ experience of inclusion emerges from two main factors: (a) the development of strong, well-internalized work identities (e.g., role, group, organizational identities), which enable employees to feel socially embedded, effective, and valued, and (b) the integration of work identities with important nonwork identities (e.g., race, gender, family role, personal values) to achieve harmonized relationships among them. The satisfaction of employees’ psychological needs for autonomy, relatedness, and competence (as defined by SDT) catalyzes both factors which, together, generate subjective experiences and behaviors that derive from a more authentic, integrated sense of self at work—which the IHMI regards as the experience of inclusion and a predictor of optimal functioning. In Article One, I build the IHMI’s theoretical foundation and then propose two essential inclusive practices: (a) employer-employee partnering in the identity negotiation process necessary for employees to develop high-quality, integrated work identities and (b) supportive leader-follower relationships, defined by the extent to which employees experience need satisfaction and self-determined work motivation. I also discuss future directions for developing and applying the IHMI. In Article Two, I report the results of a survey study within the legal profession that partially tests the IHMI. The study hypothesized that employees’ need satisfaction would positively predict their identity integration (i.e., the integration of their work and important nonwork identities). Employees’ identity integration was expected to mediate the positive relationship between their need satisfaction and self-determined work motivation which, in turn, was expected to positively relate to performance and well-being. The study also hypothesized that SDT-based leadership behaviors within leader-follower dyads would positively relate to followers’ need satisfaction and that leaders’ cultural competence would amplify that relationship. Participants were lawyers and their support staff, including 448 followers and 179 leaders. Path analysis of the data largely supported the hypotheses, including that need satisfaction within leader-follower relationships and leaders’ need supportive behaviors and cultural competence positively related to employees’ identity integration which, in turn, predicted self-determined work motivation and well-being. This dissertation provides initial support for the IHMI and contributes to theory and practice for fostering the experience of workplace inclusion in multiple ways. Its chief theoretical contribution is the proposal of a new, theory-based model of the experience of inclusion that has initial empirical support. Practically, it provides theory-based guidance for designing practices that cultivate employees’ experience of inclusion. Like all theories and studies, this dissertation has limitations that are discussed in each Article. On balance, however, it makes a significant contribution to theory and practice by synthesizing three complementary literature streams to sketch a framework for a more holistic approach to the experience of inclusion than current scholarship provides. Although much more work is needed to develop the IHMI and its applications, my hope is that this dissertation points scholars in new directions that ultimately lead to more inclusive workplaces.