Why Does Discrimination Arise in Workplace: An Empirical Study and Effective Management Strategies


Why do some workplaces become breeding grounds for discrimination? As our society continues to strive for equality, it is disheartening to witness the persistence of discriminatory practices in the workplace. Through extensive research and empirical evidence, this article aims to shed light on the various types of discrimination that exist and their negative impact on employees. However, it is not all doom and gloom. By implementing effective management strategies, businesses can take proactive steps to prevent discrimination and create a more inclusive and harmonious work environment. Real-life case studies will demonstrate the success of such strategies, proving that discrimination in the workplace can be combated. Let us delve into the depths of this issue and explore these crucial insights.

Types of Discrimination in a Business Environment

Discrimination in the workplace is an unfortunate reality that many employees face on a daily basis. It takes various forms, all of which can have a detrimental effect on individuals and the overall work environment. In this section, we will explore the different types of discrimination that can occur in a business setting.

  1. Gender Discrimination: Gender discrimination is perhaps one of the most common forms of discrimination observed in the workplace. It occurs when individuals are treated differently based on their gender, rather than their abilities and qualifications. This can include unequal pay, denial of promotions, and biases in hiring decisions1 .

  2. Racial Discrimination: Racial discrimination is another prevalent type of discrimination seen in the business environment. It involves treating individuals unfavorably or differently based on their race or ethnicity. This can manifest in various ways, such as racial slurs, biased treatment, or exclusion from opportunities and advancement2 .

  3. Age Discrimination: Age discrimination, often targeting older employees, is another form of discrimination that can exist in the workplace. This occurs when individuals are subjected to unfavorable treatment and stereotypes based on their age. Examples of age discrimination can include being passed over for promotions or being subjected to age-related jokes and comments3 .

  4. Disability Discrimination: Disability discrimination refers to unfavorable treatment or exclusion of individuals with disabilities. This can involve the denial of reasonable accommodations, unequal opportunities for advancement, or overall exclusion from certain aspects of the work environment. It is important to ensure that individuals with disabilities are given equal opportunities to thrive and contribute to the workplace4 .

  5. Sexual Orientation Discrimination: Discrimination based on sexual orientation occurs when individuals face negative treatment and biases due to their sexual orientation. This can range from harassment and exclusion to denial of equal benefits and opportunities. It is crucial for companies to foster a diverse and inclusive environment that respects and values every employee, regardless of their sexual orientation5 .

It is disheartening to acknowledge the existence of discrimination in the workplace, but it is crucial to understand the different types to effectively address and combat these issues. As the renowned civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. once said6 , "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Taking a proactive approach in recognizing and eliminating discrimination is not only morally right but also essential for creating a harmonious and productive work environment.

Empirical Evidence of Workplace Discrimination

Discrimination in the workplace is not merely a subjective perception or a figment of imagination. It is a harsh reality that has been backed by extensive research and empirical evidence. Over the years, numerous studies have shed light on the prevalence and impact of workplace discrimination on employees.

According to a report by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), workplace discrimination remains a persistent issue in many industries. The study found that "racial and gender bias continue to be barriers to equal opportunities and fair treatment in the workplace." This is just one example of the many studies that have documented the existence of workplace discrimination.

One study conducted by economists at Harvard University and the University of California, Berkeley delved into the issue of racial discrimination in hiring practices. They found that "resumes with distinctive African-American names were 50 percent less likely to receive callbacks compared to resumes with Caucasian names." This study provides solid evidence of racial bias in the hiring process, highlighting the unfair treatment minorities often face in the workplace.

Discrimination is not limited to racial or ethnic backgrounds. Gender discrimination is also a significant concern. In a study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, researchers found that "women were more likely to be subjected to biased evaluations and receive lower salary offers compared to their male counterparts." This study further supports the presence of gender inequality in the workplace.

Aside from racial and gender discrimination, studies have also examined religious discrimination. Research conducted by sociologists at Northwestern University found that "Muslim job applicants, specifically women wearing hijabs, faced a significantly lower chance of receiving an interview callback compared to non-Muslim applicants." This study highlights the discrimination faced by individuals based on their religious beliefs.

The empirical evidence of workplace discrimination is not limited to these few studies. Countless research papers, surveys, and reports have consistently demonstrated the existence of discrimination across various dimensions. These studies provide concrete evidence that discrimination is a pressing issue that affects individuals in the workplace and limits their opportunities for growth and advancement.

It is important to acknowledge and address workplace discrimination because it not only harms the affected individuals but also has negative consequences for organizations as a whole. Discrimination leads to decreased job satisfaction, increased turnover rates, and damaged employee morale. Ultimately, it hampers productivity and stifles innovation.

While the empirical evidence of workplace discrimination might be disheartening, it also serves as a wake-up call for organizations and individuals alike. It highlights the urgency and the need for effective management strategies to combat this pervasive issue. In the next section, we will explore some strategies that have proven to be successful in preventing and managing workplace discrimination.

Reasons Behind Discrimination in the Workplace

Discrimination in the workplace is a pervasive issue that affects individuals from diverse backgrounds. It can take many forms, including unequal pay, biased hiring processes, and exclusionary practices. Understanding the root causes of this discrimination is crucial in order to address and combat it effectively. This section explores some of the key reasons behind discrimination in the workplace.

Lack of Awareness and Understanding

One of the primary reasons behind workplace discrimination is a lack of awareness and understanding. Many people may not be aware of their biases and how they may impact their interactions with others. Bias can arise from societal norms, cultural conditioning, or personal experiences. As a result, individuals may inadvertently hold preconceived notions about certain groups of people and treat them unfairly.

If we truly want to create an inclusive and equal workplace, it is important for individuals to recognize their biases and actively work to challenge and change them. As Maya Angelou once said, "Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better."

Stereotyping and Prejudice

Stereotyping and prejudice play a significant role in fueling discrimination in the workplace. Stereotypes are oversimplified and generalized beliefs about a particular group. When these stereotypes are applied to individuals in a workplace setting, it can lead to unfair treatment and discriminatory behavior.

Prejudice, on the other hand, is a preconceived judgment or opinion formed without adequate knowledge or understanding. It often stems from fear or ignorance. Prejudice can create a hostile work environment and hinder career opportunities for marginalized groups.

To combat this, education and awareness campaigns can help challenge stereotypes and dispel prejudices. As Nelson Mandela once said, "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."

Organizational Culture

The culture within an organization can also contribute to discrimination in the workplace. If an organization does not prioritize diversity and inclusivity, it can inadvertently foster an environment where discrimination thrives.

Organizations must make a conscious effort to create a culture that values and celebrates diversity. This can be done through implementing inclusive hiring practices, providing diversity and sensitivity training, and fostering a workplace where individuals feel safe and respected regardless of their background.

Power Dynamics

Power dynamics also play a significant role in perpetuating discrimination. In many workplaces, there are imbalances of power that exist between different groups of employees. Whether it's based on gender, race, or other factors, these power imbalances can lead to discriminatory practices.

Addressing power imbalances requires a proactive approach. Organizations should promote transparency, accountability, and equal opportunities for all employees. Additionally, creating channels for reporting discrimination and implementing fair grievance procedures can help address power imbalances and create a more equitable workplace.

In conclusion, discrimination in the workplace can have profound and long-lasting effects on individuals and organizations. By understanding the reasons behind discrimination, we can take proactive steps to prevent and address it. Creating a workplace that fosters diversity, equality, and inclusivity not only benefits employees but also contributes to the overall success of the organization.

man in black long sleeve shirt smoking cigarette
Photo by Rahabi Khan on Unsplash

The Effect of Discrimination on Employees

Discrimination in the workplace can have a profound impact on employees' well-being, their performance, and their overall sense of belonging within the organization. It creates an environment of fear, anxiety, and insecurity, which can significantly hinder their professional and personal growth.

One of the most apparent effects of discrimination is the negative impact on employees' mental health. Dealing with unfair treatment based on factors such as race, gender, age, or disability can lead to stress, anxiety, and even depression. Research has shown that individuals who experience discrimination at work are more likely to report higher levels of psychological distress. Imagine going to work every day, constantly feeling undervalued and marginalized. It is demoralizing and can impact one's ability to perform at their best.

Not only does discrimination affect employees' mental health, but it also undermines their professional achievements and career prospects. When an individual faces discriminatory practices such as being passed over for promotions or denied opportunities for growth, it can hinder their professional development. As a result, they may feel stuck in their current position without any chance for advancement. This lack of career progression can be profoundly demotivating, leading to decreased productivity and engagement.

Furthermore, discrimination can create a toxic work environment, eroding trust and camaraderie among colleagues. When employees witness or experience discrimination, it creates divisions within the team, leading to tension and decreased collaboration. This can have a cascading effect on overall team morale and ultimately impact organizational performance.

A quote from Catherine Pulsifer, a well-known author and public speaker, captures the essence of this issue: "Discrimination is a disease that spreads its hateful poison into every aspect of our lives." The negative consequences of discrimination are not limited to the individuals experiencing it; it affects the entire organization.

Addressing discrimination is not only an ethical obligation but also makes good business sense. Companies that foster an inclusive and diverse environment are more likely to attract and retain top talent. Embracing diversity leads to a wider range of perspectives, ideas, and innovations, which can ultimately drive business success.

However, combatting discrimination requires more than just lip service. In the next section, we will explore management strategies that can help prevent and address discrimination within the workplace.

Management Strategies to Prevent Discrimination

Discrimination in the workplace can have a devastating impact on employees and the overall success of a business. It is crucial for organizations to address and actively work towards preventing discrimination to create an inclusive and fair working environment for all employees. Here, we will discuss some effective management strategies that can help prevent discrimination in the workplace.

1. Establishing Clear Policies and Procedures

One of the first steps in preventing discrimination is to have clear and comprehensive policies and procedures in place. These policies should explicitly state the organization's commitment to equal opportunities and zero tolerance for discrimination. They should also outline the consequences of engaging in discriminatory behavior. By establishing these policies, employees are aware of what is expected of them and the consequences of violating these policies.

2. Educating Employees and Raising Awareness

Education and awareness are key in preventing discrimination. By providing regular training and workshops on diversity, inclusion, and unconscious bias, organizations can promote understanding and sensitivity among employees. This helps to challenge stereotypes, reduce biases, and foster a more inclusive and respectful work environment. As Maya Angelou once said, "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."

3. Promoting Diversity and Inclusion

Organizations should actively seek to promote diversity and inclusion at all levels. This can be achieved by implementing inclusive recruitment and promotion practices, setting diversity goals, and creating mentoring programs for underrepresented groups. By having a diverse workforce, organizations can benefit from a wider range of perspectives, experiences, and ideas, which ultimately leads to innovation and success.

4. Encouraging Reporting and Providing Support

To effectively address discrimination, it is crucial for organizations to encourage employees to report any incidents they witness or experience. This can be done by establishing a confidential reporting system, providing multiple channels for reporting, and assuring employees that their concerns will be taken seriously and handled promptly. Additionally, organizations should provide support and resources to employees who have experienced discrimination, such as access to counseling services or legal assistance.

5. Regularly Monitoring and Evaluating Progress

It is important for organizations to regularly monitor and evaluate their progress in preventing discrimination. This can be done through employee surveys, performance reviews, and diversity metrics. By collecting and analyzing data, organizations can identify any areas where discrimination may still exist and take appropriate actions to address them. As renowned management consultant Peter Drucker once said, "What gets measured gets improved."

In conclusion, preventing discrimination in the workplace requires a proactive approach from management. By establishing clear policies, educating employees, promoting diversity and inclusion, encouraging reporting, and regularly monitoring progress, organizations can work towards creating an inclusive and discrimination-free work environment. As leaders, it is our responsibility to foster an environment where everyone feels respected and valued, regardless of their background or identity.

people meeting in room
Photo by Antenna on Unsplash

Case Studies of Successful Discrimination Management

In order to effectively address and manage discrimination in the workplace, it is essential for organizations to implement strategies that promote inclusivity and equality. While each case of discrimination is unique, several successful management strategies have been employed by companies around the world.

1. Salesforce: Promoting Diversity and Inclusion

Salesforce, a global leader in customer relationship management, has made significant strides in promoting diversity and inclusion in their workplace. Through their "Ohana" culture, which emphasizes family and inclusivity, Salesforce has created an environment where employees feel valued and supported, regardless of their background.

One of their successful programs is their "Equal Pay initiative," which ensures that employees are compensated fairly, regardless of gender or ethnicity. This initiative involves regular pay audits to identify and address any gaps in pay. In doing so, Salesforce has set an example for other companies to follow, showing that pay equality is feasible and necessary.

2. Microsoft: Supporting Employee Resource Groups

Microsoft, a renowned technology company, recognizes the importance of fostering an inclusive workplace through the support of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). ERGs are voluntary, employee-led groups that provide a supportive space for employees with shared backgrounds or interests.

Microsoft hosts a variety of ERGs, including groups for women, people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, and individuals with disabilities. These ERGs offer mentoring programs, networking opportunities, and resources to help employees overcome barriers and succeed in their careers. By supporting ERGs, Microsoft has created a sense of belonging and community among employees, leading to increased productivity and innovation within the organization.

3. Procter & Gamble: Implicit Bias Training

Procter & Gamble (P&G), a multinational consumer goods company, recognizes the impact of implicit biases on workplace discrimination. To address this issue, P&G has implemented mandatory implicit bias training for all employees. This training aims to create awareness of unconscious biases and provides strategies to mitigate their influence in decision-making processes.

By conducting this training, P&G has taken proactive steps to promote fair and unbiased treatment of employees. This has not only fostered a more inclusive workplace but has also improved employee relationships and overall organizational culture.

4. Starbucks: Embracing Transparency and Accountability

Starbucks, a global coffee company, faced a high-profile incident in 2018 involving the arrest of two black men at one of their stores. In response, Starbucks took swift action to address the issue and prevent future discrimination. They closed all their stores for a day to conduct racial bias training for their employees and committed to several tangible measures to promote inclusivity.

One of their initiatives includes publishing their diversity data annually, providing transparency regarding the representation of different racial and ethnic groups within the company. This commitment to transparency and accountability has allowed Starbucks to actively address any disparities and work towards a more inclusive environment.

These case studies highlight successful strategies implemented by companies to manage and prevent discrimination in the workplace. By promoting diversity, supporting employee resource groups, providing training on implicit biases, and embracing transparency, organizations can create a culture of inclusivity and equality. These efforts not only benefit individual employees but also contribute to the overall success and growth of the company.

As Martin Luther King Jr. once said:

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

It is the collective responsibility of organizations and individuals to actively combat discrimination and create a workplace where everyone feels valued and respected.


"Diversity and inclusion must become part of the DNA of every organization to drive employee engagement, innovation, and growth." - John Bryant

To address workplace discrimination effectively, organizations should prioritize education and training programs that raise awareness about different forms of discrimination and their impact. This will help employees understand and challenge their own biases, promoting a more inclusive work environment. Moreover, organizations should establish clear policies and procedures for reporting and addressing instances of discrimination, ensuring that employees feel safe to come forward and that swift action is taken.

"Inclusion happens when people feel valued and that they belong, and diversity happens when people respect and appreciate those differences." - Richard Schwartz

Promoting diversity and inclusivity at all levels of the organization is crucial. This can be achieved by establishing diverse hiring practices, creating mentorship and sponsorship programs, and providing equal opportunities for career advancement. Encouraging open and honest communication among employees and fostering a culture of respect will also help prevent discrimination. By adopting these management strategies, organizations will not only combat workplace discrimination but also create an environment that promotes employee well-being, productivity, and innovation.

"Discrimination is a disease. It is racist and painful. It has roots deep in social perception. But, discrimination can be defeated by fairness, unconditional acceptance, and embracing of differences." - Debasish Mridha

In conclusion, it is imperative that organizations prioritize addressing workplace discrimination. By implementing effective management strategies, organizations can create an inclusive work environment where all employees feel respected, valued, and empowered to succeed.

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