What is it about?

Experiencing mistreatment at work can be harmful to anyone, but is it more detrimental to individuals with marginalized racial identities? In two studies of working adults from the United States, we found that, on average, Black workers suffered from greater depression than White workers when they were victims of workplace mistreatment. This differential effect across racial groups may be partially explained by the distinct ways in which Blacks and Whites interpret instances of mistreatment at work. We proposed that given historical discrimination, workers who are Black are more likely than their White counterparts to perceive workplace mistreatment as containing an element of racial discrimination, and this amplifies the negative consequences of mistreatment on mental health. Supporting our proposition, we found that even when experiencing identical levels of workplace mistreatment, workers who are Black are more likely than their White counterparts to perceive the mistreatment as an attack on their identity and a reflection of broader societal issues that they, as one historically disadvantaged person within a much larger society have little agency to address or change, which was associated with greater levels of depression.

Featured Image

Why is it important?

Depression is a serious mental health disorder that significantly impacts an individual's physical well-being and work performance. Our findings, revealing that Black workers are more likely to report depression than their White counterparts after experiencing workplace mistreatment, shed light on how the history of discrimination can take a heavier toll on Black workers in a more complicated and nuanced manner than previously understood. Importantly, it would be a mistake to misinterpret our results as indicative that Black workers are overly sensitive or less resilient than their White counterparts. The historical context of racial discrimination in the United States understandably influences the attributions of many Black workers, and seemingly race-neutral mistreatment of Black workers may actually be motivated by explicit or implicit racial bias. In essence, the greater magnitude of depression resulting from workplace mistreatment is a predicament that stigma imposes on Black employees at a disproportionately higher rate than White employees.

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Taking a heavier toll? Racial differences in the effects of workplace mistreatment on depression., Journal of Applied Psychology, December 2023, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/apl0001170.
You can read the full text:



The following have contributed to this page