Discrimination at Work : The Psychological Bases
Although the title of this book suggests a focus solely on discrimination, the behavioral, affective, and cognitive components are intertwined; consideration of one requires consideration of the other two. Most of the authors in this volume were informed by the theory and research in social psychology on the cognitive and attitudinal bases of discrimination.
However, as noted by Susan Fiske (1998), “Documenting discriminatory behavior has not been social psychology’s strong suit. Like the attitude-behavior debacle that almost destroyed the foundations of persuasion research, a debacle threatens stereotyping research if it does not soon address behavior” . Discrimination appears to have received much more attention in the organizational sciences; it is this literature that we will critically review and attempt to integrate.
Discrimination in its most general form is the differentiation among persons for the purpose of making decisions about those individuals and can occur on the basis of legitimate factors (e.g., merit or potential to perform a job). Our primary concern is with the discrimination that can occur against persons on the basis of characteristics that are inappropriate and irrelevant bases for employment decisions (e.g., group membership).
We deal with the discrimination that can occur as persons prepare themselves for employment and that can occur in their treatment once they are employed and enter the organization. Discriminatory treatment includes the formal procedures used not only in selection, appraisal, compensation, placement, promotion, training, and working conditions but also in the more informal and subtle forms of discrimination, such as social exclusion.
In this book, we explore discrimination that is well-intentioned and malicious, conscious and unconscious, legal and illegal, and related and unrelated to meaningful criteria of success. Regard less of the form it assumes, however, the effect is the same. One group of persons is placed at a disadvantage on the basis of group identity, social category, stigma , or ascribed characteristics relative to other groups with comparable potential, performance, or proven success .
Diversity in the workplace has become a major topic of research in the organizational sciences over the past decade with numerous books and articles bringing attention to the benefits of a workforce that is heterogeneous in terms of race, gender, disability status, age, and sexual orientation. Despite this positive framing of the issue, unfair discrimination on the basis of these characteristics continues as a major barrier to achieving diversity and its benefits.
There are profound inequalities in opportunity in the United States and other democratic societies despite the fundamental democratic premise that all people should have an equal chance at occupational success and the pursuit of happiness. Older workers are more likely to be unemployed and less likely to receive training and career counseling than younger workers .
Relative to White workers, Black employees are paid much less, are more than twice as likely to be unemployed, are underrepresented in higher paid occupations, and are overrepresented in lower paid occupations . People with disabilities are more likely to be unemployed and are paid less than people who do not have disabilities . Women are not only underpaid relative to men but also hold less prestigious positions, advance more slowly in organizations, and tend to be found in occupations that are predominately female .
There are little data on gays and lesbians, but here again there is evidence of inequalities such as greater rates of termination . A variety of factors is likely to determine labor market outcomes, and a question addressed to varying degrees in these chapters is how unfair discrimination in the workplace is involved in these inequalities.