Race Reflections AT WORK

18-03-2024 • 19 mins

In today's episode Guilaine reflects around a listeners query asking "how do we get mangers to understand how biased they are when it comes to the feedback that they give to employees of colour."

After briefly questioning the terminology of bias and unconscious bias, she looks at the evidence from organisational psychology, considering how empirical evidence shows that marginalised employees tend to receive poorer quality feedback. Even though the research isn’t always intersectional what exists demonstrates the intersectional effect that takes place when axis of oppression and identity collide. This feedback tends to be lower quality: less precise, more global, less frequent, and there tends to be a lot of anxiety around the exercise of providing feedback

She consider aversive racism where employers withhold negative feedback to avoid accusations of racism, but in act of withholding feedback deprive the employee of the opportunity to correct and to improve, and so sometimes to not be able to pass their probation periods or acquire skills and experience that would offer the opportunity for progression within their work. Basically in this dynamic employees of colour and other marginalised groups  are set to fail.

She reflects on how a high percentage of disputes that end up in employment tribunals are related to evaluation or discipline, and that the provision of effective feedback is central and essential to fair and just treatment in the workplace.

She spends some time talking about what employers racialised as white need to work on in regards to their anxiety and phobia around Blackness, considering what Fanon has said on these issues and the wider context of racist violence and exclusion, reflecting on how these conflicts are a liability for institutions when they are found lacking, and more frequently for black and brown individuals when they are not.

She then gives some thought to what can be done to correct these issues.

That whilst it’s worth making sure to avoiding it becoming self-fulfilling situation, most of the time people's instincts based on their  lived experience are astute and accurate/ We need to correct the misconception that people are misinterpreting the situations, marginalised people in general interpret things on balance correctly. So instead we need to take seriously these feelings and instincts and come up with strategies to mitigate and navigate these situations. Ultimately though it is really for employers and people racialised as white to address their issues around giving feedback because it isn’t something employees of colour can change alone.

Further listening:

Aversive Racism:

Thinking about feeling, feeling about thinking:

Further reading:

White Minds:

Living While Black:

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