Discrimination has, unfortunately, been a problem throughout history. But we are only now starting to understand the depth of the negative effects of discrimination in the workplace. In fact, discrimination has been shown to not only affect a person's mental health, but also their physical well being. Discrimination also can have negative effects for the company and not just due to the financial losses from lawsuits, but even the working atmosphere experienced by all employees.
Effects of Discrimination on Society
People tend to think that discrimination is an infrequent problem in our modern world, but while few people may experience discrimination great enough to warrant filing lawsuits, the majority of American adults have experienced some form of discrimination whether in the workplace or out in the world, although employment discrimination is still the most common form of discrimination. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, 69 percent of adults report experiencing discrimination and 61 percent experience it on a daily basis. This discrimination spans all number of subgroups, including people of different ages, ethnicities, races, genders, sexual orientations, gender identities and abilities.
The effects of discrimination on society are drastic, with those experiencing these problems consistently reporting higher stress and poorer health than those who do not. It is worth noting that people are resilient and that of those who have experienced discrimination, 59 percent believe they dealt quite well or very well with it, with those who had emotional support reporting less stress than those without.
The effects of discrimination on mental health are more obvious than those affecting a person's physical health and aside from increased stress, they can also include anxiety disorders, depression, substance abuse problems, reduced self-esteem, loss of self-control, anger management problems and suicidal thoughts and attempts. Physical symptoms of discrimination are only recent discoveries, but they are often problems related to high stress and may include aches and pains, obesity, high blood pressure, bouts of illness, increases in cardiovascular illnesses and higher incidences of breast cancer.
Effects of Discrimination on the Workplace
While most people are aware that the victim will suffer after experiencing workplace discrimination, they fail to consider that the other employees may be affected as well. People who associate with the same characteristics as the victim may also feel like they will be discriminated against and have higher levels of stress, hostility, mistrust, suspicion, resentment, rivalry and depression. Negative emotions can be contagious and those who work with the victim or others who believe they may face discrimination in the future will feel the effects of these negative emotions and, in turn, their moods may sour, spreading the negative vibes out even further.
These negative emotions don't just result in a cloud of bad feelings, it also means there will be reduced communication, teamwork, morale, focus and productivity as a result of this problematic atmosphere. There may also be additional cases of tardiness and absenteeism. Aside from the lost time and productivity resulting from a drop in employee morale, the company will also lose productivity and time as it investigates the report.
Financial Consequences of Discrimination
The most obvious financial impacts of discrimination are those resulting from lawsuits when employees choose to take things to court, but companies can also face fines from the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the state agency handling discrimination in your area. You may also lose money due to reduced productivity, and investigating discrimination can cost money as well. If employees resign due to discrimination, you will have to hire and train new employees to replace them, and it's estimated that replacing an employee can cost up to one-third of their yearly salary.
Finally, if news of the discrimination becomes public, you could also suffer harm to your company's reputation and end up seeing a drop in customers, possibly even a boycott, resulting in further lost income.