Understanding the Sources of Organisational Prejudice

Prejudice has serious implications for both organisations and individuals in terms of effectiveness and contentment. Binna Kandola examines research on the main areas of concern.

The Macpherson Report defined institutional racism as “the collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service” and “unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping”. To begin to address the issues we need to understand the broader context, and so we really need to look at organisational prejudice.

Organisational Culture

This is probably the most potent source of prejudice since it supports many inherent behaviours and values. It includes those arising from the needs of the organisation and those influenced by the majority or ‘in-group’. It is the ‘in-group’ who effectively define the culture in areas such as language, policies, norms, values and rules.

Either intentionally or unintentionally, this control is likely to lead to exclusionary justice based on the principle of it applying primarily to the ‘in-group’.

The ‘out-group’, usually minorities or those with little power, are expected to fall in line with the moral codes and values set by the ‘in-group’, even if this includes the denigration of the ‘out-group’. For various reasons ‘out-groups’ tend to collude with this, perpetuating what is considered acceptable or unacceptable behaviour at work.

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