Rachel D Arnett


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Doctoral Student

I am a Doctoral Candidate in Harvard University’s Organizational Behavior unit, an interdisciplinary program between Harvard Business School and Harvard's Social Psychology department. My research investigates how people think about, disclose, and express their identities during interpersonal interactions, particularly when these interactions involve status differences. I examine how intrapersonal and interpersonal identity dynamics influence relationships, workplace inclusion, and professional advancement. My research integrates several literatures, including identity, status, race, gender, social class, interpersonal interactions, intergroup relations, and performance. Before Harvard, I was a Research Assistant in New York University's Social Psychology department and a Senior Brand Strategist at Young & Rubicam Advertising. I received my Bachelor of Arts from the University of Pennsylvania.

    Research Summary

  1. Identity Expression and Workplace Inclusion

    by Rachel D Arnett

    Organizations are increasingly interested in fostering inclusion, such that employees from diverse backgrounds can bring their whole selves to work and feel socially accepted and professionally valued. An important element of inclusion is employees’ sense that they can engage in cultural identity expression: voluntarily bringing attention to cultural (i.e., racial, ethnic, national) identities during interactions with coworkers. Paradoxically, while the ability to express one’s cultural identities is often considered a sign of inclusion, employees often worry that engaging in identity expression will undermine inclusion by decreasing others’ inclusive behaviors towards them. In my dissertation research, I examine how cultural identity expression influences culturally dissimilar coworkers’ inclusive behaviors, from extending invitations to social events to incorporating professional contributions. This research seeks to identify win-win approaches to identity expression, empowering employees to be their whole selves at work while fostering inclusion. 

    Keywords: diversity; identity; Interpersonal Interactions; Status;

  2. High Status Identity Concealment in Interpersonal Interactions

    by Rachel D Arnett

    People yearn to be understood and respected. Despite these desires, my research reveals a surprising tendency: individuals conceal their authentic selves to avoid being seen as relatively high status compared to others. That is, when considering whether to disclose an identity that is higher status than a peer’s identity, individuals decide to conceal their identity in order to preserve social harmony. A person may say that he or she works as a teacher instead of as a professor, avoid mentioning working in a highly respected industry or role, or conceal having a high level of education when volunteering in an underprivileged community. My research examines when and why people conceal relatively high status identities, and considers the personal, interpersonal, and societal ramifications of high status concealment.

    Keywords: Status; disclosure; identity; Interpersonal Interactions;

  3. Professional Identity Construction

    by Rachel D Arnett

    My research on professional identity construction investigates how people decide who they would like to become in their professional lives. I examine how individuals develop, maintain, and shift their professional identities, and how these processes are influenced by factors such as gender, social class, interpersonal relationships, and personal-life considerations. 

    Keywords: professional identity; Identity Construction; Decison Making; Role Models;