Discrimination at Work

7 themes indicating the most prevalent types of workplace discrimination.

To measure the impact of workplace bias, David Maxfield, vice president of research at VitalSmarts and author of New York Times bestseller “Crucial Accountability,” and Judith Honesty, CEO of Honesty Consulting, asked 500 victims of discrimination to share their stories.

They found seven themes in the stories indicating the most prevalent types of workplace discrimination.

  • Don’t Be Yourself. Employees are warned to avoid showing who they really are—i.e., to avoid talking about her wife, to dress in a more feminine way, etc.

  • You’re Not Credible. Employees are interrupted and discounted, excluded from meetings, passed up for high-visibility assignments or promotions, etc. Others hint the perceived lack of credibility is the result of race, sex, age, etc.

  • Oops, Just Kidding. A manager or co-worker makes a blatant racist, sexist, intolerant comment to a colleague and then tries to walk it back.

  • Anything Goes After Hours. A manager or co-worker makes blatantly racist, sexist, or intolerant comments/jokes about others— customers, people in the news, etc.—after work. They feel it’s OK because they’re not at work or because they aren’t talking about an employee.

  • You’re Unwelcome. Employees are excluded from conversations at both work and social gatherings. Co-workers or managers “forget” to invite them to meetings or fail to give them information they need to do their job. Others fail to socialize with them or change the subject or stop socializing when they join.

  • Gotcha. A manager or co-worker seeks to tear down his or her colleague or believes others, even when they aren’t credible; dishes out unequal punishments; finds faults to the extent of distorting the truth.

  • Unconscious Bias: Women, minority, or older employees are told they “lack executive presence,” “don’t fit our culture,” or “are too aggressive” even though their performance would be seen as exemplary in a white, male, or younger employee.

For more information, visit: www.vitalsmarts.com.

Lorri Freifeld
Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.