Magazine article Stanford Social Innovation Review

Subtle Bias

Magazine article Stanford Social Innovation Review

Subtle Bias

Article excerpt

WORKPLACE RELATIONS

Why racism persists in a politically correct world

Few managers working in the United States today would admit to racial prejudices. And while some do quietly harbor their own personal biases, it is reasonable to presume that at least as many really do strive to treat all workers fairly.

Why, then, decades after the civil rights movement, do so many African-Americans consistently experience prejudice in the workplace?

According to a study published in the June 2004 Social Justice Research, "Managerial work is prone to unintentional social justice violations," largely because managers don't have a lot of time to make thoughtful decisions.

Previous research has shown that long before a manager makes a deliberate decision about which candidate is more talented, for instance, he / she is already receiving subtle signals from his/her subconscious. Often, these implicit attitudes are different from a manager's explicit, stated beliefs. Dolly Chugh, author of the study and a graduate student studying organizational behavior at Harvard Business School, found that the implicit racial attitudes offers a more telling view of how managers really behave when making split-second decisions in a stressful environment. Because of the enormous time pressures faced by managers, even the most civicminded people may unwittingly treat blacks and whites differently. Milliseconds matter when deciding who gets hired, who gets promoted, and who gets the corner office. …

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