Color us surprised by the results of a new report released through the Harvard Business Review that says white men feel threatened by the idea of diversity policies in the workplace. In the United States, many companies spend millions of dollars on programs aimed at including more women and minorities among their workers, but now a number of studies point out that these programs are mostly doomed to failure.
According to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, when companies brag about their diversity policies, “high-status group members” (i.e., white men) assume that everyone else is being treated fairly, which leads people to discount claims of mistreatment and become less sensitive to discrimination. Meanwhile, another longitudinal study in the American Sociological Review discovered, after researching 700 companies in the U.S., that diversity training programs actually have minimal positive effects and “may even decrease representation of black women.”
But that’s not the worst of it: An even more unbelievable study suggests that white men believe rigorous anti-discrimination policies actually put them at a disadvantage. In findings published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, researchers learned during a hiring simulation that white men who were told their company was pro-diversity “expected more unfair treatment and discrimination against whites” and ended up doing worse at their simulated job interviews.
Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Tessa L. Dover, Cheryl R. Kaiser, and Brenda Major, three researchers who worked on several of these studies, explained that “groups that typically occupy positions of power may feel alienated and vulnerable when their company claims to value diversity.” Conversely, they found that diversity policies did little to convince minorities that they were being treated fairly either. But the term diversity is a simplistic catchall for deeper problems at work. As Anna Holmes wrote in The New York Times Magazine in October, “bragging about hiring a few people of color, or women, seems to come from the same interpretive bias, where a small amount is enough.”