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business school research

A group of Muslims attend a rally in New York to protest against Donald Trump.Kena Betancur/AFP / Getty Images

The Globe's monthly roundup of research from business schools.

The pollster-defying results of the recent presidential election in the United States have left many people around the world reeling in surprise, but don't count Wendy Cukier and Suzanne Gagnon among them.

Both women have spent much of their academic careers exploring diversity, inclusion, social justice and equality in the workplace – Dr. Cukier as a professor of information technology management and director of the Diversity Institute at Ryerson University's Ted Rogers School of Management in Toronto and Dr. Gagnon as assistant professor of organizational behaviour in McGill University's Desautels Faculty of Management in Montreal.

With that in mind, the victory of Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton serves "as a sobering reminder of how deep-rooted racism and misogyny are and how easily the veneer that often conceals them can dissolve," they say in an e-mail.

The conclusion follows a collaborative study, published in The International Journal of Human Resource Management, which zeros in on the shifting discussion around employment equity in Canada over the past 20 years as it relates to women, aboriginals, persons with disabilities and visible minorities.

In the 1990s, according to the study, social activists and labour unions dominated the discussion with diversity challenges framed in terms of racism, sexism and homophobia. Over the years the discourse has become more economically grounded – that is, a diverse workplace offers a company stronger economic performance, employee engagement and innovation.

More recently, companies have begun to discuss the advantages of inclusion.

"It's not just about having people in your organization who are different, it's about ensuring they can be active participants and that their talents are fully recognized," Dr. Cukier and Dr. Gagnon say in the e-mail.

And while positive steps toward diversity have been made, the researchers say "happy talk" is not enough to drive real change. A stated commitment to diversity must be coupled with significant changes in organizational practices. "Set real targets and goals. Show leadership," they say.

At the same time, they urge corporate leaders not to lose sight of what they called "underlying structural issues" that continue to challenge the achievement of equality and human rights.

For a real-time example, they say, just look south of the border. "It is important not to wallpaper over the deep-rooted structural issues of racism, misogyny and homophobia that persist. We have to be vigilant."

Countering counterfeit shoppers

From counterfeit Christian Louboutins to knock-off Nike sports gear, the manufacture and trade in fake luxury and brand-name goods is a thriving industry.

Ringing in at $1.77-trillion (U.S.) in worldwide sales in 2015, according to some studies, "counterfeiting has become a significant global problem," says Kai-Yu Wang, associate professor of marketing at Brock University's Goodman School of Business in St. Catharines, Ont.

Dr. Wang's most recent research probes the psychological and emotional motivation behind all this counterfeit consumption.

Specifically, the work looks to determine what prompts people to intentionally buy fake brand-name products, even when the act doesn't align with their personal morals.

"The more we understand consumers' motivations of counterfeit consumption, the better the government and the companies can develop strategies to minimize counterfeit consumption," says Dr. Wang in an e-mail.

To be sure, saving money accounts for some consumer reasoning.

But the research, drawn from in-depth interviews with counterfeit-savvy shoppers, also found many people are driven by thrill-seeking behaviour and savour their part in becoming part of a "secret society" of luxury buyers who know how to spot a good deal.

The study found that counterfeit shoppers have little problem rationalizing the unethical behaviour – for instance, denying responsibility of the damage they are doing to the original brand or reasoning they actually prefer the fake design to the real thing.

And while many people who buy knock-off goods told researchers they aren't ashamed of their purchase, that emotional pendulum can swing if their deception is exposed to their social circles.

Dr. Wang says marketers can help fight the counterfeit culture by creating campaigns that neutralize shoppers' rationalizations and highlight the social risks of being "exposed."

"Consumers want to save money, but they want to do so without losing face," he says.

The study was co-authored by Xuemei Bian of the University of Kent, Andrew Smith of Nottingham University's business school, and Natalia Yannopoulou of Newcastle University's business school, all in Britain. It was published online in the Journal of Business Research.

How to hire authentic employees and avoid the 'fakers'

Organizations, both private and public, spend time, money and immense resources to assess and select the right job candidates. Naturally, they want to get the person who is the most qualified to do the work and the best fit with the organization's culture.

Hiring the wrong person can be extremely damaging and costly for the organization.

Unfortunately, says Nicolas Roulin, assistant professor of human resource management at the University of Manitoba's Asper School of Business in Winnipeg, finding "the one" isn't always as simple as it sounds.

From candidates who exaggerate their skills and make up past job experiences to those who insincerely praise the hiring organization or pretend to speak another language, he says, "We know from the last decade or so of research that an important proportion of job applicants try to deceive the organization [and interviewers] to get the job."

Dr. Roulin recently authored a study aimed at helping employers better understand these so-called "fakers" and stop them before they get a foot in the door.

Researchers conducted three studies that showed applicants with a competitive worldview – that is, those who perceive the world as a "competitive jungle" where everyone must fight for scarce resources – are more likely to use deceptive tactics to get ahead.

The study found this to be true regardless of a country's economic situation.

"In other words, competitive people do not fake only when facing a tough economy, but do it in any situation," said Dr. Roulin.

Ultimately employers can benefit from making competition less important to applicants so that competitive people aren't encouraged to "fake it."

Dr. Roulin suggests organizations avoid statements such as "only the best will make the cut" or "we only select the very best." He also discourages having all the candidates gathered at the same time in one location.

The study's conclusions run counter to a broadly held corporate practice that rewards and values competitive individuals. "We show that competition can have a darker side," says Dr. Roulin.

The study is published in Journal of Applied Psychology and co-authored by Franciska Krings of the University of Lausanne in Switzerland.

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