Discriminatory Managers Negatively Impact Output of All Workers

A recent study by Nicholas Heiserman of Oklahoma State University and Brent Simpson of the University of South Carolina finds that when people work for discriminatory managers, they put in less effort. That’s true both when managers are biased against them and when they’re biased in their favor.

Researchers placed nearly 1,200 participants in several experiments designed to mimic work settings, where they and other “workers” made decisions about how much effort to dedicate to a task.

In some experiments, participants complete number searches — by counting how many times “3” appeared in a large table of numbers, for example. The more searches a participant completed, the higher their effort was rated. Participants, working in pairs or in small groups, were told that their manager would award a bonus to one person based on how many number searches the workers completed.

To create a discriminatory situation, participants were told that there were two types of employees: blue and red. Participants were always assigned to be blue. One-third of the participants were told that the manager had a bias against blue employees, while another third were told that the manager was biased in their favor. The rest didn’t receive any information one way or the other.

We found that those workers who knew their managers discriminated — whether it was for them or against them — completed fewer number searches than participants in the control group. They also found that even though working for a discriminatory boss made everyone put in less effort, the disadvantaged showed the largest decline.

The authors conclude that this could lead to a vicious cycle, where targets of discrimination respond by putting in less effort than advantaged workers. In turn, their managers may come to see them as lazier, less competent, or less deserving of promotions — which can strengthen their original biases.

The full paper, Discrimination Reduces Work Effort of Those Who Are Disadvantaged and Those Who Are Advantaged by It,” was published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour. It may be accessed here.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Get the JBHE Weekly Bulletin

Receive our weekly email newsletter delivered to your inbox

Latest News

Five African American Scholars Appointed to New Faculty Positions

The new faculty appointments are Judith Byfield at Cornell University, Nikki Hoskins at Harvard University, Edda Fields-Black at Carnegie Mellon Universityin Pittsburgh, Shawn Utsey at Virginia Commonwealth University, and Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw at the University of Pennsylvania.

Wiley University Launches New Honors College for Fall 2024 Semester

The Heman Sweatt Honors College will provide students with access to a dedicated living community, specialized classes and research opportunities, faculty mentors, and financial aid for tuition, internships, and study abroad experiences.

Two Black Historians in Higher Education Receive Prestigious Dan David Prize

Keisha Blain of Brown University and Cécile Fromont of Harvard University have received 2024 Dan David Prizes for their outstanding achievements as academic historians.

City of Hope Partners with Charles R. Drew University of Medicine to Advance Diversity in Cancer Research

“By working together, City of Hope and the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science aim to address health disparities and promote diversity in specialized medical fields, ultimately improving health care outcomes for the communities we serve," said David Carlisle, president of CDU.

Featured Jobs