Ethnic-Racial Bias Tolerance: A Manager’s Perspective


Managing social differences in the workplace is one of the major recurring challenges that call for the attention of managers at various levels. In most organizations handling the issues caused by the subsets of cross-cultural diversities is left to human resource managers. However, due to the complexity of the matters involving ethic and racial discrimination in the work environment, a common strategy is normally adopted for the various departments which make up the entire company. At the onset of this research discussion, it is critically important to note that people have intricate differences which distinguish them from each other. In an organization set such as accompany or any work environment, such variability affect both individual and group behavior.

The tendency of a company’s staff to coalesce to form groups with inclinations to some clear common history such as ethnic /social background is almost natural escapable. This is particularly so in the workplaces where people feel away from “home” but still manifest their traditional behaviors. The conflict that results when people from various socio-cultural backgrounds converge at the workplaces forms the basis of this research paper. It is intended in the discussions that follow different experiences involving employees’ problems with their companies and amongst themselves invoking their ethnic and social biases that meaningful recommendations can result to help Human resource managers settle these disputes easily. Thus the purpose of this research, the findings that result, accompanying discussions and subsequent recommendations is to form an a part of the information achieved for managers to make more realist and practical staff decisions equally informed by this document. Similarly, this research writing takes an illustrative analysis on the importance of reconciling the various biases caused by ethnic and racial differences at the job interface for the sake of organizations’ success.

Ethnic Bias; causes and consequences

Ethnic bias refers to the intentional or coincidental preferential treatment of colleagues in consideration to the ethnic “ties that bind” or seem to unite the subjects involved in any of the organizations activities. The ethnic biasness draws from various individual and group notions such as micro-cultural beliefs systems, community traditions and the prevailing organization’s culture. In the work place, ethnic bias refers to ones’ actions either for or against the others with prejudice connotations embedded in ones native or origin and how the organization culture affects those actions everyday. Ethnic bias is also promoted by recruiting staff entirely dominated by persons from one common origin, even though drawn from different locations. This clique of people will eventually identify with each others behavior, language, religion, speech mannerisms and a certain way of appreciation for their work to the company (Debrah & Smith, 2001, p.104)

The end result may always mean special treatment for this ethnic community in the job if they are doing better, besides fringe rewards, while disregarding others in the company who often feel rejected and despised at the price of the ethnic group dominating at the job. Therefore, prejudice is the main consequence of ethnic bias in a company and often leads to staff disintegration which hampers the organizational unity leading to low company output. Teamwork is essential to efficient organization’s functioning. All desired results minus a unified task performance often result in unmet and unfinished business for the company to ponder upon. It is this teamwork at the job that Ethic bias has been found to work to compromise each time it degenerates a company’s workforce by prevailing upon the set standard codes of the company operations’ guiding principles. A worst case scenario of widespread ethnic bias in the work environment may result into “oppressive violence” and protest. Discouraging communication with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) about issues of work related discrimination is a further hindrance to the war against ethnic discrimination at the work place as it only intensifies the magnitude of the problem (Konrad, Prasad & Pringle, 2006, p. 4).

Racial Bias; causes and effects

Racial bias in the workplace refers to favorable treatment of people, colleagues and customers, because of preference to their historical origin embedded on their race and places of origin. In this manner biasness draws from preference to natives than non natives in staffing and rewarding of work done to the company by its employees. Racial bias has a greater array of effects as it means preferential treatment of customers as well as staff even in a foreign nation where a company may have a subsidiary. It is generally caused by the pride that a certain races displays at the workplace and may seem to be accepted by the organization. Other causes include company ownership as considered by its founders for instance, Ford and General Motors’ Chrysler were founded by Native Americans. This basis gives the company management a rather natural “reason” to favor the natives in staff recruitment product delivery in America and across the world. In this particular case, racial bias may hamper its market besides keeping better engineers from exploiting their skills to produce even better products. The belief that race is the main determinant of character and human strengths have resulted to the general notion that certain races are superior and therefore more deserving of better treatment and dignity. The main proponents of racial biases in the work place often believe that a certain race or other races portray undesirable qualities. One cannot easily draw the line between racial biasness and ethnic bias at the workplace since both involve one common thing, discrimination (Mak & Pless, 2004, p.88)

Research findings of Dean and Marianne Bertrand at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and University of Chicago showed rampant social biases in the workplace involving discrimination of job applicants with name names perceived to be of non-native American. Instead, corporate organizations and national companies were bent to hiring people with names “sounding white”. The findings showed that black Americans had less than 50% probability of receiving responses for interviews. The research concludes that such occurrences are default biases caused by common customs of the Native Americans in general (Albrecht, 2001, p.43).

Racial bias in the workplace is synonymously referred by various other terms such as systematic racism, structural racism and state racism. Generally in wider spheres, intuitional racism is the main form of racial bias. This latter form of discrimination involves state corporations, educational institutions and large national organizations which are highly influential. The creation of job groups targeting certain races, infringes Title VII of act 1959 of the U.S. which protects employees “from being segregated or classified based on their racial groups or color”. The opinion that certain races portray undesirable characteristics makes some companies to hide staff of a certain race from customer contact or subject them to work in an inappropriate department, sometimes made to be subordinates because they are thought to belong to a certain race or color infringes the law. It equally promotes ethnic-racial discrimination because it promotes concentration of people of certain origin in one location (Chandler, 1962, para.8)

Ethnic-racial biases tolerance

Ethnic-racial tolerance is the slow but gradual process of accommodating the diverse views of groups and individual members of a company with the view of assimilating their unique indispensable practices for the company to progress harmoniously. The key to ethnic/ racial bias rests in eliminating as much as possible the differences that promote discriminatory mode of operations at the workplace. In essence, it is the act of reconciling the dominant features that mark individual and group variations that influence the staffs’ behavior in contrary to the set expectations of the company. Such differences like use of non formal language and way of dressing are usually harmonized by use of an official language that obtains wide acceptance in the organization’s market while dressing style can be harmonized by defining a common dress code applicable to all the workers. By and large, ethnic-racial tolerance is aimed at improving the companies output and displaying a positive image in the public domain. In a more radical setting such as General Electric (GE) Casinos and capital market companies, a standard code of ethic is a requisite to tolerating ethnic and racial biases without favoring any persons or groups (Wrench, 2008, p.92)

In the 21st Century, companies need to attain production that can enable them to compete internationally due to liberalization policy which is presently embraced by many economies. Therefore managing the cross-cultural differences arising from communal or racial ancestry should never result into culture shock and further misfit to people at the work place. Formal meetings and informal negotiations should be used while employing the services of trained counselors whenever it is necessary to reconcile the underlying views of employees which are hinged on their social and economic history. This is because research has indicated that while one may discriminate another due to their economic background as either poor or affluent, the victim retaliates by invoking the insulter’s racial or ethnic origin with ill claims as in war mongering and corruption. The entire process degenerates into a huge conflict involving company lawyers and advocates as the weaker team in this discriminatory exchange moves to court (Maak & Pless, 2004, p.130). A classical case of Ford Motors industry in America in its humble beginning is an example. Ford faced a challenge from its non unionized workers in 1959 when it employees demanded equal treatment from the management as the African Americans were being discriminated and paid low wages (Debrah & Smith, 2001,p.108).

According the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (2006), “Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964” protects all people in the United States against “discrimination at the workplace on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex or religion. The law further makes it illegal to discriminate against any applicant for employment because of his or her color or race. In companies where privileges of employment prevail, ethnic discriminations are found to involve job vacancies asking people with qualifications not correlated with the work performance to apply. In other cases direct exclusion of particular individuals from certain specified roles and derogatory statements made concerning specific background at the work place may constitute ethnic bias. The common practice of recent times, where organizations and corporations deliberately create job groups intended for particular ethnicities also cause s ethnic bias at the job. The array of causes extends further to include requesting job applicants to take tests for skills not necessary at the job (Cox, 2001, p.54).

Importance of accommodating Ethnic-Racial differences in the workplace

Rewards for employees in any organization, usually go beyond monthly wages and salaries to include how the employees are treated and the amount of physical and psychological effort that the workers have to dissipate in order to obtain such gains. While financial rewards are important in appreciating the work of employs in delivering its goals, the fringes that come by how the staff are honored for outstanding achievement and given promotions influences the general behavior of the workers in the company either in teams or individually. Therefore it is clearly evident from companies’ management that ethnic and racial discrimination will always be open even if the arrangements were made in confidential board meetings behind (heavily guarded) close doors. Any organization is consequently set to prosper with a little ease if it would manage to contain and control ethnic/racial biases (Debrah & Smith, 2001, p.105)

Embracing diversity in the work place based on the concepts of ethnic/racial differences of groups that have been systematically discriminated against, should be encouraged despite of whether or not the historically disadvantaged groups, such as the African Americans and the Asiatic groups receive legal protection. Therefore, ethnic and racial differences covered by the law are just important as the differences in skin color, creed, hair color and language. The inconsistencies in organizational influence and individual economic status are attributed to skewed reward in companies. Similarly the discrepancies between the “meritocratic” ideology inherent in most organizations coupled by differences in rewards and experienced on the basis of ethnic and racial bias present a real problem that always require the organizations’ attention.

Improving marginal revenue and attaining certain specific goal which may qualify a company for ISO certification, precious and prestigious awards including a reputable image is only possible with a strong team work in consultations with the company management (Konrad, Prasad & Pringle, 2006, p. 4).

To this end, achieving a proper intra-relationship and interrelationship among the employees and between the company and its customers/subscribers is critical to the progress and eventual performance. For these relations to produce unity which is core the company’s functioning, mutual respect of each others’ humble opinion needs to be respected; the organizations rules has to be constantly revised to stipulate this option. Such relations have far reaching affects which include the company’s entire market (Cox, 2001, p.53)


Companies’ management decisions involving staffing, public relations and customer relations are prone to effects of ethnic and racial bias. While the degree of biasness varies from location to location, the task of resolving the effects of such biasness presented serious challenges to Human Resource Managers. The recruitment process of staff and promotion of workers should be done in very transparent, open and fair manner following already laid down procedures for qualifications. The qualifications and the procedures used in hiring, training and employing of workers should transcend ethnic and racial limits so that employees are less subject to racial and ethnic discriminations. In the event that some people in the workplace refuse to let go of some of their traditional practices and adopt or conform to the ways described by their company may mean that companies have to opt for further orientation, training and retraining of its workers. This is one possible way of workers offering the specific skilled labor designed to go with the company’s functions in various departments (Bibby, 1959, p.6)

Use of common language, definite dress code, and standard code of company ethic defining what is right and what is intolerable to the company is essential to ensuring that the company effectively manages challenges related to ethnic and racial biases. In a sort of modus operandi, the company should post to the employees mails short notes and virtuous notices reflecting both short term and long term goals of the company. Better still, the words of the company‘s CEO should be used to give the messages the desired authority. Employs should also be encouraged to objectively and openly discuss their experiences of ethnic and racial discriminations. Ethnic-racial tolerance requires that employees are trained to cope with ethic based discrimination by developing suitable response mechanisms to discriminatory conditions. A simple structure of dealing with ethnic and racial biases in the workplace involves, establishment of the fact that biasness actually exists in the organization, discussing the issue with other people of the same ethnic background (Albrecht, 2001, p.43)

Discussing the issue from its early beginning is important as it provides necessary support to the offended employees. It also makes the case more valid since it is backed by substantial evidence including a good number of witnesses. Before taking further actions the concerned employees should discuss the matter with hi/her immediate boss or her supervisor. In the process s/he should enumerate all the reasons for the ethnic/racial biases s/he experienced while keeping in mind to make the case as rational as possible to the supervisor. It is only after this stage that the employee should take the issue to the next higher relevant authority. Inform the Human Resource Manager of the company about the grievance because the human resources department is responsible for all the issues affecting the employees. Then the victims can talk to a lawyer who specializes in issues of workplace discrimination so that their range of options to deal with the problem. Due to the variations in the ways in which discrimination cases are handled in different company and national setting, involving the services of a lawyer is essential in following the external grievance filed with the judicial systems of the country (Allan, Belcourt, Charlse & Wright, 2000, p.299).


Ethnic and racial backgrounds present varied socio-ethno-political diversities which every employee is proud of. However, it amounts to a problem when the pride mentioned in this research tends to or despises others’ opinion and way of life. Ethnic and racial bias includes simple acts like mocking a colleague’s articulation of words and their pronunciations because of the influences their first language. For example Pidgin English as opposed to British or American English because the speaker’s first language is either French or Dutch is a composite of ethnic/ racial discrimination when this is practiced at the job. Company managers and board have to continue formulating and implementing laws and principles with universal inclinations for their companies to facilitate smooth running of their activities. Companies also depend on their employees as they do to their customers. Therefore ethnic/racial tolerance is necessary in companies’ relations in all its operations and hence establishing an environment that is both worker and customer friendly. This requires equity and equality in views accommodating Ethnic-Racial differences in the workplace.


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