Marquette Business

Building inclusive work environments: Marquette business professors offer management tips

Drs. Kristie Rogers, Jennica Webster research how to make workplaces as supportive as possible

The art of a successful sportscast is a delicate performance in front of the camera with a mosh pit behind it. 

Directors sit in front of a control panel with a dizzying array of buttons and sliders, eight screens flashing above their heads. A cacophony of commands — “Take camera 3! Ready that graphic! Ninety seconds until break!” — whiz back and forth between the staff’s earpieces, like a tennis volley with four different balls at once. There’s hardly a moment’s rest. 

Dr. Kristie Rogers, associate professor of management in the Marquette College of Business Administration, knows what it’s like to be in the mosh pit. From Michigan-Ohio State games on national television to bowling tournaments in obscure corners of Nevada, Rogers stood at the epicenter of the chaos, helping announcers and sideline reporters perform in such a way that made it all seem effortless to the viewing public. 

“Sometimes broadcasts would go incredibly well and sometimes they wouldn’t feel quite right, and I could never put my finger on exactly what distinguished the first kind of broadcast from the second kind,” Rogers says. 

Rogers’ primary fascination drifted from sports to finding an answer to that question. After getting an MBA at the University of New Mexico and her doctoral degree at Arizona State, Rogers came to Marquette, where she conducts widely acclaimed research around respect in the workplace, an idea that evolved from her early career experiences as a stage manager for ESPN. 

“I went back to the reporters I worked with and they told me one of the biggest factors in the success of a broadcast crew is whether members of the crew feel respected by their superiors,” Rogers says. “During my Ph.D. program, I realized that there wasn’t much out there about respect in management literature. It was this thing that was assumed to be very important, but it was such a broad term that it meant everything and almost nothing.” 

The fall semester brings many formative work experiences with it for students. Some took their first jobs and internships. Others are in their first supervisory roles. All of them will emerge with enduring attitudes toward the workplace. 
“First jobs always have an important effect on people,” says Jennica Webster, professor of management and director of Marquette’s Institute for Women’s Leadership. “Those who are made to feel welcome, have a sense of belonging, and are able to achieve their work-related goals and have them celebrated will end up taking those positive experiences forward with them throughout their careers.” 
The first step in doing that is bringing two different kinds of respect to the workplace: earned and owed. Earned respect is the kind of acknowledgement that goes along with title or prestige. It can also be given as the result of accomplishment; in fact, Rogers’ research suggests that frequent, genuine praise is one of the quickest ways to build a positive, effective working environment.  
Owed respect, on the other hand, is the kind of baseline recognition of humanity to which each person is entitled regardless of achievement. This is an especially important factor in creating ethnic, religious and gender-inclusive workspaces. Webster, whose primary research interest is diversity and well-being with a particular emphasis on exploring the unique challenges faced by women and marginalized communities including those who identify as LGBTQ+, knows exactly the kind of discrimination these groups can often face. 
“People with LGBTQ+ identities are a growing and increasingly visible segment of the workforce, yet at the same time, they still experience considerable discrimination and even threats in the workplace,” Webster says.  

“In just 2023, a year that isn’t even over yet, more anti-LGBTQ+ legislation has been introduced than in any of the previous five years, and that animus carries over to the workplace,” she adds. 
Building a healthy work environment means combining that baseline acceptance of identity with empowering professional habits. This responsibility falls on every chain of the command structure, according to Rogers, starting with the boss.  

“When you have a direct supervisor, that person is the face of the organization to you,” Rogers says. “If you’re a junior or senior who is now overseeing a club or a group of freshmen and sophomores in an on-campus job, you are shaping their experience of work and their perception of whether Marquette is a supportive place.” 

However, Rogers also believes that culture-building isn’t just a top-down process; it can also come from the other direction. 
“Beyond the tasks of their job, even new or entry-level employees play a part in crafting the culture and environment they’re in. Each interaction gives you a chance to perpetuate a more positive work environment or be a person that detracts from it,” Rogers says. 
Students can also expect their first jobs to play a role in informing their social views. That was the case for Webster, who worked as a hostess in a resort community and noticed the disparity between the wealthy guests and the people who served them. She recalls it as the first moment where she truly grasped the concept of privilege, which informs her work to this day. 

Long before she became a professor, researcher or stage manager, Rogers’ first job involved filing documents at her campus’ medical school. The way the staff cared about her, frequently asking about classes and checking up on how she was feeling when she was sick just before finals week, resonates with Rogers years later. 
Ultimately, students should ask themselves not only what they want to do for work, but what kind of environment fits best with their core values. 
“Think of each on-campus job or internship like practice,” Rogers says. “You’re collecting data for what kind of organization you want to work for, which situations you thrive in and which you find draining. The goal is to find the right fit for you once you go out to look for that first full-time job.”