Demographics and Mistreatment

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As most people can unfortunately attest, mistreatment is a fact of life at work. Even if someone has not personally experienced poor treatment, they likely know someone who has.

Mistreatment can take several forms, including abuse from a supervisor or coworker, bullying, discrimination, harassment, incivility, ostracism, and various forms of aggression.

Recently, Mallory McCord, of the University of Minnesota, and her colleagues examined whether one’s race or sex influenced the likelihood of facing workplace mistreatment.

They aggregated the results from previous studies, and analyzed the responses from over 200,000 employees. Their results show that women and racial minorities were more likely to experience workplace mistreatment than were their male and White colleagues, respectively.

Additional analyses showed that the results varied based on the type of mistreatment. Women experienced more sex-based discrimination than men, but when it comes to other forms of mistreatment, the differences were negligible.

A similar pattern was present for race-based mistreatment, as racial minorities reported substantially higher rates than did men. For other forms of mistreatment, racial differences existed, but were smaller.

As another way of thinking about the findings, consider that 68 percent of women perceive more sex-based discrimination than do men, and racial minorities experience 77 percent more race-based mistreatment than do Whites.

Mistreatment has several harmful effects. For individuals, it can result in withdrawal from work, poor performance, and physical and psychological harm. For organizations, it can mean lawsuits, decreased performance, and employee turnover. Thus, identifying ways to end workplace mistreatment will mean that all people benefit.