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Interdependent behavior only benefits employees from working-class backgrounds when it is both enacted and valued.

Social class disparities are pervasive in American society. In higher education, one critical driver of these disparities is the cultural mismatch between the interdependent norms of people from working-class backgrounds and the independent norms that pervade higher education. However, after graduating from college and entering white-collar workplaces, people from working-class backgrounds have frequent opportunities to collaborate in teams-that is, to enact interdependent behavior. Do these opportunities reduce cultural mismatch for people from working-class backgrounds? Across two survey studies and two experiments with college-educated U.S. employees (total N = 2,566), we find that they do not. We theorize and document that this is because there is often a decoupling between enacting interdependent behavior and whether such behavior is valued as part of being a "good" employee. We find that employees from working-class backgrounds only experience a cultural match and its benefits (e.g., sense of fit, high retention intentions) when interdependent behaviors are both enacted and valued. In contrast, when interdependent behaviors are enacted but not valued, employees from working-class backgrounds experience a cultural mismatch. Furthermore, we find that this pattern is unique to employees from working-class backgrounds: Employees from middle-class backgrounds report similar fit and retention regardless of whether there is a coupling of enacted and valued interdependent behavior. Taken together, our results suggest that it is critical to examine multiple elements of culture simultaneously (e.g., both enacted and valued behavior) to fully understand and predict the consequences of cultural (mis)match. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2024 APA, all rights reserved).

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