Racial Stigma at the Workplace and Affirmative Action: Ensuring the Most Qualified Person is Hired
There are many kinds of discrimination at the workplace. Some of the most known ones are discrimination against gender (especially against women), race and/or ethnicity (especially against minority groups, such as blacks and Hispanics), and even against people with some illness. Essentially, the vice can manifest in favoritism in employment as well as promotions (as an aspect of career development and job mobility) (Crosby & Konrad, 2002; Brohan & Thornicroft, 2010; Reuben & Bobat, 2014). Efforts have been made to address these problems. The efforts constitute what is generally known as ‘affirmative action’, which entails the deployment of resources in a manner that ensures that people in designated categories are treated fairly, especially with regard to education and employment (Crosby & Konrad, 2002). The focus of this paper is the Tesla Corporation, which has been accused of perpetrating racial discrimination. The claims have been occasioned by a number of complaints among minority employees that they are being passed up for promotion because of their race. This implies a racial stigma at the organization – stigma is conceptualized as a psychological state in this case. Indeed, affirmative action would be an important framework to address the problem in question. However, there is the danger of fronting minorities at the expense of others in the name of affirmative action. Therefore, Tesla must remember to focus on hiring the most qualified individual for the job.
The Problem of Racial Discrimination at Tesla
While Tesla has embraced cultural diversity in its workforce, it has not protected its employees from discrimination on the basis of their race. Indeed, the management has over the past few years taken the issues of workplace diversity seriously. The workforce of the organization is diverse, consisting of men and women (both in the lower as well as management positions), Caucasians and racial minorities, and people of all ages among others. The organization has a non-discrimination policy that seeks to protect all minorities: racial, LGBT community, and gender among others. The policy addresses issues that include bullying (non-bullying policy), wages and career mobility, among others. However, there have been some complaints from some individuals, especially those from racial/ethnic minority groups. They have reported racially-motivated abuse, discrimination, and harassment by their supervisors. For example, a number of black employees have complained of being passed up for promotions despite being qualified for them. The posts were given to their Caucasian colleagues whom they deemed to be less qualified than them.
Indeed, racial stigma can play out in both explicit and subtle ways. According to Brohan and Thornicroft (2010), stigma is conceptualized on the basis of three premises: knowledge (that is, misinformation and/or ignorance), attitudes (prejudice) and behavior (discrimination). At the workplace, these manifest in prevailing inequalities, among others. Regarding the Tesla case, one way to prove such stigma is showing that rewards that the minority groups accrue (relative to their productivity) are lower than those garnered by others. Secondly, one must show that minority groups lack opportunities to realize their productive potential as a result of processes unrelated to their innate capabilities (Loury, 2005).The two may be hard to prove. However, based complaints that have been lodged, as well as the many incidents of famous organizations (including CNN, HP, Tesla, among others) being implicated in racial discrimination and/or inequality, the accusations may be legitimate.
Addressing the Problems of Employment and Career Development through Affirmative Action: Inherent Problems and Solutions
No doubt, individuals in designated categories (women, racial/ethnic minorities, the disabled, and LGBT among others) face significant discrimination and harassment/bullying than other people. Therefore, a strong case has been made for protecting these minorities by creating what may be deemed as special circumstances (contained in the concept of ‘affirmative action) to ensure fair treatment.
In terms of employment, an affirmative action plan constitutes two main components: self-scrutiny and action. In this case, self-scrutiny involves the contractor/employer monitoring the number of racial minority individuals who are employed in various job classifications within the organization and comparing them with the number of qualified racial minority individuals who are actually employable in those jobs (Crosby & Konrad, 2002). The distinction made here is between the ‘employed’ and ‘employable’ or what ‘is’ against what “could/should be.” Action entails reconciling the two. Doing so entails adopting various methods to determine the number of qualified racial/ethnic minorities and implementing policies to enable their employment in and promotion to various positions within the organization.
The concept of affirmative action is complex, and it raises conflicting opinions on whether it is fair or not (Crosby & Konrad, 2002; Reuben & Bobat, 2014). Some researchers, for instance, have pointed out that affirmative action programs may undermine the people they seek to benefit by raising questions of merit, that is, whether such people are qualified for the jobs they acquire, and if the expected numbers are reciprocal to the numbers of qualified persons found (Crosby & Konrad, 2002). Affirmative action policies are also thought to cause controversies in organizations, especially when the policy is thought to be discriminatory, what Crosby and Konrad (2002) refer to as “reverse discrimination” (p.3). such a scenario may raise conflicts. For example, Reuben and Bobat (2014) point out a dilemma in South Africa that regards “how to address historical injustices [on the one hand] whilst, at the same time, being able to build a single national identity and promote economic growth and development” (p.3).
It is possible to come up with an affirmative action policy that has the least controversial issues. At Tesla, the management can adopt a number of strategies to enable affirmative action while at the same time addressing the controversies cited.
- Open and Effective Communication for Occupational Benefits of Diversity:, and Creating an Effective Policy Framework
Open and effective communication is an important aspect in corporations. Consequently, Tesla should communicate clearly and effectively on why it must establish and defend affirmative action policies. The entity should communicate about the value of diversity, arguing for the fundamental premise that race/ethnicity is a significant factor that provides salience at the work setting. In other words, affirmative action is intimately related to the organizational goals. Indeed, studies have demonstrated that diverse workplaces enhance decision-making processes and resilience (Green, 2004). After communication, the management should outline aspects of the affirmative action policy by reinforcing the more positive attitudes towards affirmative action (Crosby & Konrad, 2002; Hartlep & Lowinger (2014). The affirmative action policy should focus on:
- Accessibility to recruitment sources that are likely to generate high numbers of racial/ethnic (and gender, among others) minority candidates
- Tracking percentages of minorities in jobs that are likely to lead to management positions
- Ensuring that minorities take part in career development and training programs
- Ensuring minorities are considered for management vacancies, and
- Encouraging minorities to take part fully in the recreational, social and career activities sponsored by the company.
- Emphasis on Merit
The management should clearly articulate the unwavering importance of merit as a major consideration in making decisions concerning hiring and promotion. Moreover, the organization should publicize that the beneficiaries of their affirmative action policy are highly qualified to quell fears of reverse discrimination and help to eradicate the perception that the minorities are incompetent.
- Managerial Evaluation Training Programs
The evaluation of employees can be difficult and energy-draining. It can also involve unpleasant confrontations as well as interpersonal conflicts (Crosby & Konrad, 2002). Tesla should offer managerial training programs on fair performance evaluation of all employees to help eliminate problems, such as bias, in the process of evaluation.
Affirmative action is controversial because some doubt its efficacy. Particularly, concern regards the place of merit, risk of reverse discrimination, and conflicts in an organization. However, it is also true that minority groups are marginalized in different contexts in society, such as workplaces. Going by the complaints of some of the minority-group employees, Tesla must institute measures that promote equal employment and promotion of its workers. Some of the changes it can implement to achieve the objective of a discrimination-free entity are ensuring the accessibility of recruitment sources, availing career development and training opportunities, and considering minorities for management vacancies. It also needs to enact strategies for enabling the implementation of the equality policy, and this can be enabled through open and effective communication, placing an emphasis on merit, and conducting managerial evaluation training programs.
Brohan, E., Thornicroft, G. (2010). Stigma and Discrimination of Mental Health Problems: Workplace Implications. Occupational Medicine, 60(1), pp. 414-415
Crosby, F. J., Konrad, A. M. (2002). Affirmative Action in Employment. Diversity Factor, 10(2), pp. 1-5
Green, D. O. (2004). Fighting the Battle for Racial Diversity: A Case Study of Michigan’s Institutional Responses to Gratz and Grutter. Educational Policy, 18(5), pp.733-751
Hartlep, N. D., & Lowinger, R. J. (2014). An Exploratory Study of Undergraduates’ Attitudes toward Affirmative Action Policies for Asian Americans in College. Equity & Excellence in Education, 47(3), pp. 370-384
Loury, G. C. (2005). Racial Stigma and Its Consequences. Focus, 24(1), pp.1-6
Reuben, S., & Bobat, S. (2014). Constructing Racial Hierarchies of Skill – Experiencing Affirmative Action in a South African Organization: A Qualitative Review. SA Journal of Industrial Psychology, 40(1), pp. 1-12