Subtle Forms of Prejudice

As this brief overview shows, the roots of prejudice are many and varied. Some of the deepest and most intensively studied roots include personality factors such as right-wing authoritarianism and social dominance orientation, cognitive factors such as the human tendency to think categorically, motivational factors such as the need for self-esteem, and social factors such as uncharitable ingroup attributions for outgroup behavior. Research on these factors suggests that prejudiced attitudes are not limited to a few pathological or misguided individuals; instead, prejudice is an outgrowth of normal human functioning, and all people are susceptible to one extent or another.

Yet there is also a reason for optimism; when viewed historically, there is no doubt that many virulent strains of prejudice and discrimination are on the decline. Gone are the days of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, of legalized slavery, of lynchings by the Ku Klux Klan. Gone are the days when most women worldwide could not vote or hold political office. In many countries multiculturalism and diversity are more widely embraced than ever before, as evident from the soaring popularity of world music and international cuisine; of cultural history and heritage celebrations; and of greater civil rights for historically stigmatized populations such as people with disabilities, indigenous and aboriginal groups, and gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.

In response to these changes, psychological researchers have increasingly turned their attention from blatant forms of prejudice to more subtle manifestations (Crosby, Bromley, & Saxe, 1980; Page, 1997). This shift in focus does not imply that traditional displays of prejudice have disappeared, but rather, that contemporary forms of prejudice are often difficult to detect and may even be unknown to the prejudice holders.

Subtle Racism

Since the 1970s, researchers have studied several interrelated forms of subtle racism (see Table 3 for an overview). The central focus of this research has been on White prejudice toward Black people, and even though each form of subtle racism has distinct features, the results have consistently pointed in the same direction: White people are most likely to express anti-Black prejudice when it can plausibly be denied (both to themselves and to others).

Studies have found, for example, that Black job candidates and Black college applicants are likely to face prejudice when their qualifications are ambiguous but not when their qualifications are clearly strong or weak (Dovidio & Gaertner, 2000; Hodson, Dovidio, & Gaertner, 2002). Similarly, a study on obedience to authority found that White participants discriminated when selecting job applicants for an interview, but only when instructed to do so by someone in authority — a situation that allowed them to deny personal responsibility and prejudice (Brief, Dietz, Cohen, Pugh, & Vaslow, 2000). In this rather disturbing study, roughly half the participants received a fictitious letter from the company’s president saying:

Our organization attempts to match the characteristics of our representatives with the characteristics of the population to which they will be assigned. The particular territory to which your selected representative will be assigned contains relatively few minority group members. Therefore, in this particular situation, I feel that it is important that you do not hire anyone that is a member of a minority group. (p. 80)

Participants who received this statement selected fewer than half as many Black applicants for an interview as did participants who received no such statement. The bottom line: under conditions of attributional ambiguity that allow people to appear unprejudiced, even “subtle” forms of racism can exact an enormous toll on racial minorities.

Table 3. Forms of Subtle Racism

Name Primary Citations Description of Main Features
Symbolic
Racism
Kinder & Sears (1981); McConahay & Hough (1976); Sears (1988) Symbolic racists reject old-style racism but still express prejudice indirectly (e.g., as opposition to policies that help racial minorities)
Ambivalent
Racism
Katz (1981) Ambivalent racists experience an emotional conflict between positive and negative feelings toward stigmatized racial groups
Modern
Racism
McConahay (1986) Modern racists see racism as wrong but view racial minorities as making unfair demands or receiving too many resources
Aversive
Racism
Gaertner & Dovidio (1986) Aversive racists believe in egalitarian principles such as racial equality but have a personal aversion toward racial minorities

Bullying: Often A Tolerated Form of Violence by Employers

Violence in the workplace starts far before clench hands fly or deadly weapons douse lives. Where disdain and animosity routinely uproot cooperation and communication, violence has happened.

It is time to treat workplace bullying equipollent to sexual harassment or racial discrimination, to identify the perpetrators, establish rules of conduct and penalties, and even pass laws proscribing and penalizing bullying.

Bullying in the workplace is very far reaching today, however before we can come to comprehend it, we should comprehend that bullying is not quite the same as innocuous incivility, impertinence, rudeness, prodding and other well-kenned forms of interpersonal torment. Bullying is a type of violence, however, it rarely includes fighting, battery or homicide. It is often sub-lethal, non-physical violence. And as research data show, bullying crosses boundaries of gender, race and organizational rank.

Attributes of Bullying

In what manner can an issue so common not trigger societal shock? Silence by targeted employees is understandable in light of the fact that disgrace comes from being controlled and humiliated.

Co-wokers’ silence bodes well in a dread tormented condition when individuals are uncertain on the off chance that they may next be targeted.

Notwithstanding how bullying is displayed – either verbal assaults or key moves to render the target ineffective and unsuccessful – it is the assailant’s want to control the objective that spurs the activity.

Bullying incorporates abuse that incorporates same-sex and same-race badgering. Research has found that in just 25% of bullying cases does the objective have secured amass status and in this way qualify the offenses as sexual harassment or racial discrimination. A college overview led by University of Illinois analysts found a comparable strength of bullying over types of illegal harassment. The fact that many types of bullying are not illegal makes it barely noticeable despite the fact that it is three times more common than its better-perceived, unlawful forms.

Men and women can be bullies. Women make 58% of the culprit pool, while men speak to 42%. Research likewise demonstrates that when the targeted individual is a woman, she is harassed by a woman in 63% of cases; when the objective is male, he is bullied by a man in 62% of episodes. Most bullying is same-sex provocation which makes up the dominant part of bullied individuals (80%).

Bullying is almost imperceptible. It is non-physical, and almost dependably sub-deadly working environment viciousness. Workplace homicide gets featured on the news as striking uncommon occasions even in the violent United States. Corporate chiefs focus intensely on aversion and reaction forms, topped with zero tolerance rules.

Strikingly, bullying is psychological violence, for the most part incognito and once in a while clear. It is mental savagery, both in its inclination and effect. Despite how bullying is exhibited – either verbal attacks or overt moves to render the objective ineffective and unsuccessful – it is the attacker’s intention to control the objective that spurs the activity. The significant hazard is mental harm, however, counseling is not offered by employers to complainants who report bullying.

The trademark normal to all bullies is that they are controlling contenders who misuse their agreeable targets. Most domineering jerks would stop if the tenets changed and tormenting was rebuffed.

Bullying nearly resembles the phenomenon of abusive behavior at home. Both were covered in silence before being conveyed to open consideration. Accomplice viciousness casualties at first were reprimanded for their destiny. In the long run, the conduct was workplace harassing merits a similar advancement from acknowledgment to disallowance. The glaring distinction amongst local and work environment mental viciousness is that the last finds the abuser on the employer’s payroll.

Why Employers Should Address Workplace Bullying?

Bullying is 3 times more pervasive than sexual harassment. Illegal discrimination and harassment require noteworthy speculations of time and cash to recognize, adjust and avert. Employers definitely recognize what to do about harassment. Bullying is costly: employment practices liability can be significant. A bullied employee, frequently the most capable employees, are driven from the workplace. Turnover is costly. 

What Employers Should Do?

Employers should create values-driven policy. An ideal anti-bullying policy should include a declaration of unacceptability; the organization must state its displeasure with the misconduct; hostile workplace protections for everyone; extend rights to everyone regardless of protected group status; extend, combine or replace existing anti-violence & anti-harassment policies; inescapable definition, reserve prohibitions only for severe incidents, to clarify the threshold for taking action; non-punitive separation for safety; documentation of adverse impact to discourage frivolous complaints or abuse of the policy; incorporate perpetrator pattern & practice over time; credible enforcement processes; credible third-party investigation & adjudication process; foster employee trust, to remove influence of personal relationships; progressive disciplinary action not zero tolerance, to allow for change in conduct; retaliation prohibition to count offenses of retaliation separately, to stop the cycle of violence.

Hiatt & Mason Enterprises to Pay $35,000 to Settle EEOC Racial Harassment Lawsuit

Black Employee Subjected to Racial Epithets Almost Daily, Federal Agency Charged

MOUNT AIRY, N.C. – Hiatt & Mason Enterprises, Inc., a structural steel erection services company, has agreed to pay $35,000 and provide other relief to settle a racial harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today. The EEOC had charged that Hiatt & Mason violated federal law when it subjected a black employee to a racially hostile work environment.

According to the EEOC’s complaint, around March 2014, Paul Bowman began working as a laborer at Hiatt & Mason’s facility in Mount Airy, N.C. The EEOC said that starting in March 2014, Bowman’s white foreman and some of his co-workers subjected him to racial harassment for almost two years. The alleged misconduct included daily or almost daily use of the “N-word” and other racial epithets, as well as racial jokes about blacks. On more than one occasion, Bowman was threatened physically by one of the co-workers who engaged in racist name calling. The agency further charged that the company’s equal employment opportunity officer witnessed at least one of the incidents of harassment and received complaints about some of the abuse, but took no action to stop it. Bowman left the company around March 2016.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from allowing a racially hostile work environment to exist in the workplace. EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina (EEOC v. Hiatt & Mason Enterprises, Inc., Case No. 1:16-cv-01429), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to providing monetary relief to Bowman, the company entered into a four-year consent decree requiring it to develop and implement a policy that prohibits race-based harassment, provides at least three alternative managers to whom employees can report harassment, and requires managers to notify the company president of all employee complaints. The decree further requires the company to conduct annual training for its employees, supervisors, and managers on Title VII and its prohibition against workplace harassment. Hiatt & Mason must also distribute a letter from its presi­dent to all employees, stating that any employee who engages in racially offensive conduct shall be subject to discipline, including possible termination. The decree further requires that Hiatt & Mason post an employee notice about the lawsuit as well as provide periodic reports to the EEOC.

“Employers must take appropriate action to stop their employees’ use of racial slurs in the workplace,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for EEOC’s Charlotte District Office. “The EEOC takes a company’s failure to take appropriate action to stop racial slurs and racially offensive conduct very seriously and will prosecute cases where this kind of abuse occurs.”