Development and Initial Validation of the African American Workplace Authenticity Scale

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Virginia Tech


Workplace authenticity for African Americans has received much attention in recent years, both in various research domains and in popular media. However, empirical research is scarce regarding what drives Blacks' decisions around whether to outwardly express their inner racial identity at work and what impact (in)authenticity has on workplace outcomes. The lack of empirical research is likely due, in part, to the fact that there are few existing measures designed to assess Blacks' workplace authenticity. Thus, the purpose of the current research was to develop and provide initial validation evidence for a situational judgment test (SJT), called the African American Workplace Authenticity Scale (AAWAS), aimed at measuring Blacks' propensity to use various identity negotiation strategies related to authenticity. Those identity negotiation strategies included identity shifting, referred to as code-switching by laypeople, avoidance, and authentic self-expression.

The first phase of the research included item generation and refinement of the item pool using a web-based sample of Black working adults (n=207). For this phase, 38 items were created. Each item included one scenario and three response options each; each response option corresponded to one of the three aforementioned identity negotiation strategies, and each identity negotiation strategy is considered its own subscale. Furthermore, each scenario involved a situation wherein a Black individual was presented with pressure to conform to their White counterparts at work. An exploratory factor analysis was conducted to determine which items to retain, which resulted in a three-factor solution and the retention of 13 items.

The second phase of the research involved gathering initial validation evidence for the 13-item scale, again using a web-based sample of Black working adults (n=252). For this phase, confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) and analysis of measurement invariance between genders was completed to determine whether the three-factor solution fit on a new sample and whether the scale can be used to make meaningful comparisons between males and females. Additionally, the relationships between the AAWAS and existing scales related to authenticity and response bias were explored using correlations. The CFA generally supported the three-factor solution, and metric invariance was found between males and females. Evidence for convergent and discriminant validity from the correlational analyses is presented. Moreover, the subscales of the AAWAS demonstrated good reliability according to rules of thumb for Cronbach's alpha (Identity Shifting Cronbach's α = 0.79, Avoiding Cronbach's α = 0.85, and Authentic Self-Expression Cronbach's α = 0.85). Overall, the AAWAS demonstrated promising psychometric properties thus far and has the potential to facilitate causal modeling in the area of workplace authenticity for Blacks with further validity evidence.



Code-switching, authenticity, identity-shifting, authentic self-expression