PROVO, Utah, March 21, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- A new study by VitalSmarts, a Top 20 Leadership Training Company, found that more than a quarter (27 percent) of those who experience discrimination at work report the bias to be common, impactful and beyond their ability to manage. The result of this triple threat of factors leads to frustration, stress, depression and helplessness on the job.
To measure the impact of workplace bias, David Maxfield, vice president of research at VitalSmarts and author of the New York Times bestseller Crucial Accountability, and Judith Honesty, CEO of Honesty Consulting, asked 500 victims of discrimination to share their stories. Each subject experienced incidents in the workplace which resulted in them feeling unwelcome, excluded, discounted, or disadvantaged because of who they are—their race, age, gender, national origin, religion, physical or mental disability, medical condition, pregnancy, marital status or sexual orientation.
By analyzing the stories, Maxfield and Honesty found that bias in the workplace is pervasive, permanent and unmanageable for victims. Specifically:
Maxfield and Honesty rated the stories based on Martin Seligman's work on Learned Helplessness to measure the impact of discrimination on employee behavior. Seligman has found that the way people perceive an event determines the impact it has on their behavior. Events that are seen as permanent, pervasive, and beyond their control lead to frustration, stress, depression and helplessness.
Additionally, they found seven themes in the stories indicating the most prevalent types of workplace discrimination.
Honesty says these seven themes reveal a trend of subtle—yet harmful—workplace discrimination. While overt bias is likely not tolerated, under-the-radar forms of discrimination are pervasive and severe across corporate America.
"We catalogued hundreds of moments where victims were left questioning others' intentions and their own perceptions," says Honesty. "The inner litany sounds a bit like, 'I'm upset, but I don't know if I should be, or if I have a right to be.' At best, this shadowy bias is exhausting. At worst it's soul destroying to both the individual and the organization."
Maxfield says it's important leaders demonstrate and teach skills for confronting bias in a way that uncovers what really just happened.
"Our research shows people who initiate honest, frank and respectful dialogue build understanding and cultures of respect," says Maxfield. "These are the kinds of cultures that promote rather than erode performance and engagement."
Maxfield and Honesty share five skills to confront and reduce subtle to overt forms of bias in the workplace:
Note to Editor: Maxfield is available for interview. A high-res infographic and copies of his book, Crucial Accountability,are available.
Named one of the Top 20 Leadership Training Companies, VitalSmarts, a TwentyEighty, Inc. company, is home to the award-winning Crucial Conversations®, Crucial Accountability®, Change Anything®, and Influencer Training® and New York Times bestselling books of the same titles. VitalSmarts has consulted with more than 300 of the Fortune 500 companies and trained more than 1.7 million people worldwide. www.vitalsmarts.com
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