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American Psychological Association

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Journal of Applied Psychology

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Achieving greater social equity in organizations often depends on majority members taking risks to challenge the status quo on behalf of their colleagues with stigmatized identities. But, how do employees enact courageous behavior in this regard, and what are the social implications of these courageous acts on stigmatized group members who witness them at work? To begin examining these questions, we conducted 4 studies using qualitative and quantitative data collected from 428 transgender employees. Drawing on the core principles of sociometer theory, we argue that these acts of oppositional courage serve an important symbolic function in the eyes of transgender employees in that they convey a powerful, public message regarding their value as organizational members. This message of value likely has key implications for their organization-based self-esteem (OBSE) and, in turn, their job attitudes and wellbeing. In Study 1, we employed a critical incident technique to generate qualitative accounts of participants’ exposure to these courageous acts in support of their trans identities at work. In Study 2, we experimentally manipulated trans participants’ exposure to these behaviors to examine their impact on individuals’ anticipated levels of OBSE. In Study 3, we developed a measure of oppositional courage and conducted tests of its construct validity. In Study 4, using a time-lagged survey design, we found that trans employees’ perceptions of oppositional courage were positively related to their job satisfaction and negatively related to their emotional exhaustion via their OBSE. Yet, these indirect effects were moderated by the centrality of participants’ trans identity.


Accepted version. Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol. 106, No. 3 (2021): 399-421. DOI. © 2021 American Psychological Association. Used with permission.

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