Workplace discrimination and the perception of warmth

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In looking into the reasons that workplace discrimination still occurs, even with laws against it, researches stumbled across something very interesting. When meeting another person, people will often get a sense of “warmth” — or a lack thereof — from that person. They then judge the person based on this and make decisions revolving around that judgement.

The study found, for example, that people in the United States tended to view those who are homeless with a low level warmth. The same was true for those who were undocumented immigrants.

As a result, people would feel a desire to avoid these groups. If you asked them, they may say they technically had no problem with immigrants or the homeless, and that they even wanted to help these people, but the reality is that they’d feel this inner compulsion to avoid them.

The assessment of warmth is often not based on much more than social standing, researchers found. For instance, when people met those who are in the middle class, they typically felt positively about them. It’s a rash judgement, but it shows how quickly people can feel mildly prejudiced just by meeting someone.

As you can imagine, this can carry over into the workplace. It’s a more subtle form of discrimination, but when co-workers meet someone they’re not familiar with, they may not feel this warmth and make a snap decision to avoid that person or distrust him or her. This could matter tremendously when making hiring decisions or handing out promotions.

If you’ve been discriminated against, even if it’s been subtle, you need to know what legal rights you have.

Source: Forbes, “The New Face Of Workplace Discrimination,” Michael Morris and Susan Fiske, accessed July 14, 2017