Beyond Good Intentions

Posted on October 10, 2008. Filed under: Academic Publishings |

Much of my research has suggested access and treatment discrimination experienced by minorities in the workplace. This article outlines the subtleties behind corporate America and its effects onto business operations. As the article suggests, as traditional racism slowly becomes a cultural no-no, there are new forms of racism that continue to inhibit minority leadership development and success within organizations.

Just fifty years ago, blatant racism and few efforts to support women were condoned and accepted in the workplace. Although these discriminatory practices are not tolerated today, they are in fact punishable by federal and state regulations. The post civil rights era has brought about a new form of corporate discrimination that inhibits the advancement of minorities in the workplace. “Blatant racism has been replaced by a more subtle form of racism that reflects an adherence to such traditional American values as individualism rather than open bigotry (pg. 59).” Because blatant racist behaviors are no longer accepted, top executives and managers have woven cultural and racial stereotypes into the corporate fabric of equality. As it will unfold, these authors demonstrate that business objectives have been tainted by racist thinking, and that corporate discrimination is well-justified in unquantifiable ways.

While analyzing 1993 data, the U.S. Census Bureau showed that while white [non-Hispanic] family income increased by 9% and black families’ income experienced no change, this suggests that there is an underlying factor that is not quantifiable by corporations or the government. One significant factor lies within the workplace, where “blacks are segregated not only vertically; some evidence also shows rather striking forms of horizontal segregation in the workplace (60).” This evidence provides some insight into the 1993 Bureau statistic, in that Black corporate income is experiencing a halt or slow decline in advancement and leadership opportunities.

This new form of racism is present in several corporate facets, including managerial top-down mandates, feelings that reside in entry-level managers in the hiring process, and so forth. Believing that racism belonged to previous generations, these corporate citizens unknowingly participate in modern-racism in their business functions. For example, believing that “blacks are not sufficiently self-reliant, self-disciplined, or otherwise do not adhere to the values embodied in the Protestant Ethic,” an employee may use these prejudices to evaluate or interact with another colleague, continuing the cycle of racism.

These beliefs do not lead to open bigotry, but can be justified through personal and qualitative reasoning, making the following justifications; they don’t “fit in” with the culture, personality, and so forth. Because this is harder to quantify, substantial and quantifiable evidence is required to make claims against racial discrimination. All of these examples mentioned above play significant roles in minority leadership development. If low-percentage of Blacks resides in executive positions, it makes it difficult to counter the many forms of new racism, forcing high-percentage concentrations of minorities in low-level managerial and entry-level positions. Secondly, “as companies pursue what Loden and Roesner call the homogeneous ideal (63),” Blacks and other racial minorities will continue to encounter these problems until upper management implement programs tailored to the development of corporate minority leaders. These corporate programs must be fully embodied by the CEO and other executive members in order for the trickle down affect to occur.

This article helps to explain many of the observed statistics that minorities often suffer from slow rates of income inflation while White, non-Hispanic men enjoy faster salary increases and more rapid promotions. This reading also challenges a few articles I have read regarding reasons for sub-par income levels and job performances.

Brief, Arthur P. et al. Beyond Good Intentions: The Next Steps Toward Racial Equality in the American Workplace. Academy of Management Executive, 1997. Vol. 11 No. 4.

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