Demographic changes have led to an increase in occupational and geographical mobility in the labor markets making it a basis for the increase in discrimination at the workplace. The main reason being individual prejudice as attached to the way different individuals perceive things in different aspects of life as regards to the race, skin shading, national root, sexual orientation, handicap, religion, and age due to the different cultural diversities. This paper focuses on the literature that relates to discrimination at the workplace and its implication to organizational productivity. It will also contrast the benefits of working in a discrimination-free environment as compared to where discrimination is communal and how it affects organizational productivity. I will use International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) as my company of focus
Discrimination is the unfair treatment of different categories of people due to contrasts in the race, skin shading, national root, sexual orientation, handicap, religion, and age. Discrimination is a global challenge that should be addressed, especially in countries where racism is still a problem as in India, Lebanon, Bahrain, Libya, Egypt among others where their populace is included people who share comparable ethnic foundations.
However, due to the demographic changes, there is an increase in occupational and geographic mobility in labor due to the labor market regulations and trade unions, which require working with people from different ethnic backgrounds and values. This issue has not only affected the societies where we inhabit but has also extended to different workplaces thus striking a burden to the human resource management and the organization's productivity and making discrimination unavoidable at the workplace.
In the ages, discrimination depended on stereotypes like a disabled person could not be a productive employee, that certain jobs were inappropriate for women or people who were overweight, among others. Recently, the same is still on the increase even if it is more subtle. In this context, different regulations and policies have been developed to curb the cancer of discrimination at the workplaces among which include: -
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which is significant legislation affecting the context for human resource management in organizations. It was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson to promote equal opportunities to everyone. Under this Act, ' it is unlawful for an employer to fail or refuse to hire any individual, to discharge any person, or to discriminate in another way against any individual in any aspect of the employment relationship based on that individual's race, color, religious beliefs, sex or national origin. '
The law applies to all components of the employment relationship, which include wage terms, working conditions among others, and to all organizations with 15 or more employees working 20 or more weeks a year. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed by President George H.W. Bush. According to this Act, 'it prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, public accommodations, commercial facilities, telecommunications, state, and local government services'.
Despite the above approaches set up, there is a fast increment in discrimination in the working environment and this has additionally expanded the pace of discrimination cases in courtrooms due to the expanded consciousness of the general population about their privileges concerning discrimination through internet-based life which has a wide inclusion. Giving an example of when an individual sees an article on news, magazines, or social networks about discrimination, they become more aware of their rights, providing them with insights about discrimination.
With the current situation about discrimination, it has become a prerequisite for managers especially the human resource managers to fully understand the impact of discrimination on their workforce and also diverse means of managing it to ensure a productive work environment. My goal in this research is to undertake the content analysis of IBM Corporation as one of the pioneer organizations with a non-discriminatory working environment in the USA, and expound how using this approach has contributed towards the organization's productivity and profitability.
According to Allport,” discrimination is the act of dying individuals or groups of people equality of treatment, which they may wish.” (Allport 1954) it is a biased behavior that involves actions that directly or indirectly harm the unfavored group of people. He argues that ingroup favoritism plays a fundamental role in intergroup relations, taking psychological precedence over outgroup aversion where individuals favor members belonging to the ingroup over those belonging to the outgroup and this had made discrimination inevitable.
According to Dovidio & Gaertner, 'attitudes, prejudice, and stereotypes are individual processes that yield to discrimination'(Dovidio & Gaertner, 1998). Through an individual developing a strong sense of belonging to their ingroups, they develop a preference for their group over others and this ingroup bias results in discrimination. Attitudes are affected by either cognitive or affective elements where cognitive elements include the specific thoughts or beliefs about the attitude object or person and comprised of categorizing people into ingroups and outgroups while affective elements comprised of feelings and emotions related to the attitude object.
Cognitive and affective elements are further influenced by different factors called moderators according to Dovidio & Gaertner, which include Personality and individual differences, group conflict, social categorization, and social identity. However, several researchers consent that discrimination at workplaces is mainly based on eight factors which include gender, sexual orientation, Religion, Disability, Age, Weight, Race, and Ethnicity.
Recent research shows that the stereotypes of women are changing even though “women continue to be held to higher and more restrictive standards where they are forced to balance asserting their competence while maintaining a warm and likable presence” states (Catalyst 2007, Corrington & Hebl 2018). It should also be noted that women still suffer workplace discrimination especially in the work environments where women are the minorities compared to men.
There has additionally been an expanding acknowledgment of LGBT people in the US nonetheless, the discriminations of these individuals still exist in the workplaces as compared to the heterosexual people in the human resource. In the case of job applications, they stand a lower chance of getting the job compared to heterosexual yet in most cases they are always more skilled and competent as compared to the heterosexual people and this hampers the organizational productivity by losing out on quality skills due to discrimination.
Although People with disabilities are protected by the ADA amendment Act and ADAAA, they are still discriminated in the workplace because they are perceived as incompetent and inefficient. This literature review has allowed us to have a theoretical understanding of discrimination, identifying some of the major causes of discrimination in the workplace. however, it does not reflect the challenges that result from discrimination and the benefits of having a discrimination-free environment.
Using IBM Corporations as my company of focus, my analysis will show the benefits of having a discrimination-free work environment as compared to having discrimination in the workplace.
International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) is an American multinational technology with headquarters in Armonk, New York. It functions in over 170 countries. IBM is one of the largest and pioneer in accessibility for people with disabilities in the United States with a non-discrimination policy which aims at promoting a discrimination-free work environment and this response has benefited IBM Corporations in the following ways:-
Low Turnover: This is the rate at which employees leave the organization. IBM Corporation's, ability to have low turnover is influenced by its nondiscriminatory policy which aims at having a discrimination-free work environment through having people with disabilities as part of their target workforce by their human resource. It should be noted that high turnover is very expensive and cripples organizational productivity, however organizations that consider employing people with disabilities have low turnover because they are considered the most committed group of people at the workplace.
Employee Engagement: With a discrimination-free work environment, employees are committed and motivated at the workplace through being collaborative with their colleagues, and this idea has made innovativeness inevitable at the workplace where they are always developing new ways of performing their duties. The IBM Corporation’s policy of “Supporting the journey: Gender Transition in the global workplace” which is against discrimination according to gender, protects the LGBT employees at IBM Corporations and this has maximized employee engagement as they are not discriminated against while at work thus leading to increased workplace productivity.
Diversity within the company culture; IBM corporation is committed to diversity through promoting a culture that is more inclusive and diverse. It has task forces in place comprised of Asians, Black, Hispanic, LGBT, Men, Women, Native American, People with Disabilities, which help at supporting their existing diversity constituencies. This approach has not only facilitated the diverse collection of unique skills and experiences within IBM Corporations but has also eliminated discrimination at the workplace thus improving organizational productivity.
Conflict management: Conflict is good for any organization because it inspires group Cooperation and inspires creativity, however, too much of it hampers the organizational productivity as much time and resources are spent at resolving workplace conflicts, which later lead to discrimination at the workplace. With a discrimination-free environment, conflict is effectively managed thus efficiency in the human resource management and increasing organizational productivity because opportunities are evenly distributed.
Effectual Decision Making: In Organizations where discrimination-free workplace environments are essential as at IBM Corporation, management especially the human resource management makes effective decisions in terms of hiring, pay, compensation, providing effective workplace conditions among others to their employees. They are not biased at who, when to hire an individual and this helps them collect a pool of great talent and skills from the labor market thus improving the organizational productivity.
I have been also been able to analyze some of the causes of discrimination and how it negatively impacts on the organizational productivity in the following ways-
Communication is one of the major challenges of discrimination in the organization especially with human resource management. As stated by Dovidio & Gaertner, “attitudes, prejudice, and stereotypes are the individual processes that yield to discrimination” (Dovidio & Gaertner, 1998), but they are never communicated.
This is a mental battle that most managers are struggling with and needs to be addressed because of the different cultural differences. They tend to favor a group of people as compared to the other group depending on Race and Ethnicity, Gender. inability among others when either hiring or providing work benefits to the employees. Even though some act unconscious about this, the majority are always conscious of what they are doing but cannot address it and this hinders effective communication between management and its employees thus making discrimination inevitable at the workplace and affecting the organizational productivity.
- Stereotyping: This is how someone perceives something or how a group of people perceive things around them. Stereotyping leads to inequalities in the labor market where a group of people is preferred compared to the other group due to the different ways they are perceived, and this leads to discrimination in the workplace. For example, most employers prefer having individuals without disabilities as compared to individuals with disabilities because of fear of the associated costs of employing them and this affects the competitive edge of the organization.
- Fear of change: In every organization, some individuals hate change and are not always willing to move out of their comfort zones and adapt to new ways of working. Giving an example of new hires in organizations, they always find it difficult to fit in because of the tendency of being discriminated by their old colleagues in the departments who are always in fear of either losing their jobs to the new hires or adapting to new ways of doing things especially in situations where a new manager has been deployed and this leads to ingroup favoritism thus affecting intergroup relations in the workplace.
- Fear of Retaliation: -This occurs when an employer discriminates an employee or a group of employees for engaging in any discriminatory cases or raising concerns about discrimination and this always keeps the employees in fear of losing their jobs because they raised a discrimination complaint against their employers thus creating more room for discrimination to prevail at the workplace.
- Socio-Cultural factors: Due to the cultural differences, different people were brought up differently thus their different perceptions about age, gender, race and ethnicity, sex orientation among others and following the demographic changes, which has led to the occupation and geographic mobility in labor, discrimination at the workplace is inevitable because people of different cultural backgrounds are required to work together.
Basing on the analysis above, in my perspective, I would recommend the organization to undertake the steps discussed below to ensure the effectiveness of the organization: -
Modeling Behavior to prevent discrimination by making sure that managers are always consistent with their behaviors through effectively communicating to their subordinates what they expect of them as a team daily but not rather leave the employees to think what they are supposed to be doing.
Effective Diversity Training creates an inclusive and diverse environment that leads to innovation in the workplace. That is to say, through training about diversity, employees become more aware of their personal biases which may be based on race and ethnicity, gender, religion, skin color among others and also provide them with an opportunity to appreciate other values within the organization .it should also be noted that despite diversity training improving the image of the organization, it also boosts effective recruitment and retention at the workplace.
Effective leadership should also be promoted by ensuring diversity in the leadership positions where employees from the protected classes like the women, people with disabilities are also offered positions of leadership. This will eliminate stereotypes different people have towards a particular group of people and will also be the start of the healing process of those people who might have been negatively affected by discrimination thus restoring their self-esteem, motivation, and leading to organizational productivity.
Training on Retaliation: In addition to the diversity training, training on retaliation should also be provided to create awareness to the employees that retaliation is prohibited by law. The employer should also assure the employees that they will not be punished for taking actions that are protected by law, this action will help to remove the fears employees have towards retaliation and will provide them with the confidence of raising concern about discrimination.
Though discrimination at the workplace continues to be a challenge to both the human resources managers and the organizations, Employers must strive to find healthier ways of handling it since the public is much more aware of their rights to discrimination as compared in the past. However, after reviewing the above analysis and literature review, one can tell that warranting a discrimination-free work environment through having nondiscriminatory policies in place is the best way of managing discrimination at the workplace and ensuring organizational productivity.
- Allport, G. W. (1954). The Nature of Prejudice. Cambridge, MA: Addison-Wesley.
- Gaertner, S. L., & Dovidio, J. F. (1986). The aversive form of racism. In J. F. Dovidio & S. L. Gaertner (Eds.), Prejudice, discrimination, and racism (pp. 61–89).
- Dovidio, J. F. (1997, September). Understanding contemporary racism: Causes, consequences, challenges.