EGAL Researcher Profile: Merrick Osborne, Postdoctoral Fellow


By Mikena Richards

Merrick Osborne is Berkeley Haas’ inaugural Racial Equity Postdoctoral Fellow and a two-time EGAL Research Grantee. He first received his BA in psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill before earning a PhD at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business in 2022. Osborne’s area of study involves understanding how our positions in social hierarchies are influenced by the ways we address — or fail to address — prejudice. Merrick’s current research examines the practice of managerial solicitation of employee feedback to measure the success of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) infrastructure in the workplace. Osborne observes that while the practice of soliciting employees is often done to ensure that initiatives to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion are effectively implemented, soliciting an employee’s voice for feedback on DEI in the workplace poses the risk of undermining the solicited employee’s sense of belonging. Osborne proposes in his research that to successfully solicit employee feedback, one must first understand and examine the psychology of management, allowing one to determine better whose voice to solicit and the consequences for said targets.

When asked to describe what inspired him to conduct the type of DEI research that he does, Osborne states, “I have observed that marginalized employees are oftentimes tasked with addressing DEI at work–even when they do not have the necessary background, expertise, or disposition to effectively do so. This is consequential, as past research has consistently demonstrated that marginalized employees are disproportionately punished for speaking up about DEI. This creates an interesting puzzle, then: why are marginalized workers given these uniquely difficult tasks? And what consequences (good or bad) do they experience for being assigned these tasks?”

Merrick believes that throughout his years as a researcher, one thing has remained true: our experiences are all truly diverse. While teams of people can experience the same thing, Merrick explains, all members may understand it differently. To Osborne, each understanding is equally valid and critical to our ability to come together to operate effectively. Yet Merrick’s work has also shown that these divergent perceptions can also lead to conflict if they are not communicated clearly and succinctly — hence the importance of conducting research that improves our understanding of how to handle these conflicts.

Throughout his tenure, Osborne has published research papers tackling some of the most pressing issues, especially issues of exclusion and oppression, facing modern society. Some of his research thus far has included: racial bias in AI programming; the purposeful avoidance of incidental intergroup contact from whites toward Black and non-white racial groups (i.e. “self-segregation”), and the psychological recovery process of full-time employees at the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic. We are honored that Merrick has chosen Haas as the venue for the next leg of his journey as an admirable scholar, inquisitive mind, and Equity Fluent Leader.



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