Discrimination in daily life can present challenges for many people. Individuals who deal with discrimination may develop feelings of isolation and fear or may become angry and aggressive. In the workplace, discrimination occurs in many forms and often impacts people in the same way as other types of discrimination.
Workers who feel threatened, harassed, fearful, bullied, or even sexually intimidated by coworkers or others in the organization can experience a decrease in psychological well-being. This can lead to poor work performance, as well as generally poor mental health. But how does workplace discrimination specifically affect those who work in the mental health field?
To answer this, and to find out if the source of discrimination influences the effect, Stephen Wood of the University of Leicester’s School of Management in the United Kingdom recently conducted a survey of over 1,700 mental health workers. He asked them to report the type of discrimination they experienced and the source of the discrimination. Using that information, Wood evaluated how source affected the outcome and impact of the discrimination.
He found that mental health workers reported a variety of forms of discrimination, including physical aggression, sexual discrimination, bullying, verbal abuse, and gender discrimination. He also discovered that organizational procedures designed to address these acts had an impact on the effect of discrimination.
Wood noticed that of four different sources of discrimination—including visitors, patients, coworkers, and managers—all had unique effects on psychological well-being. For instance, all of the sources affected mental well-being, but the effect of discrimination from patients and coworkers was diminished significantly by high perceptions of workplace justice. This was also the case, albeit to a much lesser degree, for discrimination from managers and visitors. But because managers were also often the point of contact for workplace justice, this effect of this discrimination was highly dependent upon the justice structure within the organization.
“Nonetheless,” added Wood, “Managerial discrimination has the strongest direct and indirect effects on mental health workers’ well-being and job satisfaction, consistent with our theory.” These results demonstrate the powerful negative effects of discrimination within the workplace and underscore the importance of addressing this issue in all professional arenas, and in particular, those organizations created to improve mental health and well-being.
Wood, Stephen, Johan Braeken, and Karen Niven. (2013). Discrimination and well-being in organizations: Testing the differential power and organizational justice theories of workplace aggression. Journal of Business Ethics 115.3 (2013): 617-34.ProQuest. Web.
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