"The good neighbor looks beyond the external accidents and discerns those inner qualities that make all men human and, therefore, brothers."
--Martin Luther King, JR.

    The demographics of the work force are changing!  There are a number of different characteristics contributing to diversity.  Among these are age, gender, ethnicity, and education.  Currently, the work force is getting older due to the baby boom generation.  Additionally, women are now accounting for almost half of the work force.  The racial mix of the country is changing rapidly, as the percentage of the white population continues to decline.  Finally, the level of education within the United States is increasing.  However, while the face of the workforce is changing, many of our attitudes and beliefs have remained obstinate.  When an organization continues to embrace negative implicit attitudes about race, age, gender, or other characteristics,  discrimination in the workplace becomes an issue.

    This discrmination in the workplace has multiple implications, including its effect on employee motivation.  To better understand how discrimination and motivation relate, let's examine a contemporary and a process theory of motivation.
    The contemporary equity theory of motivation argues that a major input into job performance and satisfaction is the degree of equity (or inequity) that people perceive in their work situation (Luthans, 180).  As a result, motivation is heavily impacted by things like cognitive dissonance and the exchange theory.  The theory is congnitively based because it focuses on the thought processes and perceptions of the employee.  Inequity occurs when an employee perceives his/her outcomes to inputs and the ratio of a coworker's outcomes to inputs to be unequal and can be schematically represented as follows:

person's outcomes/person's inputs < other outcome's/other's inputs
= inequality

    If the person's ratio is not perceived to be equal to the comparitive person's ration, he/she will strive to restore equity.  The strife is considered employee motivation, and the greater the perceived inequity, the more motivated an employee becomes.  It is important to note that equality or inequality is based on perception and is subjective.
    Discrimination is unequal treatment of individuals, and the equity theory of motivation would suggest that when we feel unequal, we become motivated to balance those ratios.  This balancing can be accomplished by changing outcomes or inputs, cognitively distorting outcome's or inputs, leaving the field, and finally to act on or change the person whose ratio is greater than our own (Luthans, 181).
    The process theory called the Porter-Lawler Model  suggests that levels of motivation are based more on the value that individuals place on the reward.  The components that effect motivation then, are called valence (what's important to you) and expectancy (can I do it).  Porter and Lawler suggest that perceived inequality in this model plays a pivotal role in job satisfaction.  Our motivation, or effort leads to performance.  Our performance is followed by intrinsic and extrinsic rewards.  The perceived equity of those rewards leads to satisfaction.
    Discrmination in this model becomes relevant after performance.  Our perceptions of equal or unequal rewards may cause us to be unsatisfied with the job, and less motivated to perform in the future (Luthans, 178).  This is because the model is cyclical.  If we are unsatisfied, we feel less motivated and less instrumental.  As a result, effort and performance decrease.  It becomes particularly critical then, for an organization to evaluate its rewards system.  An employee's perception of inequaltiy could be disasterous to a company!
    The Equity Theory and Porter-Lawler Model are only two motivational theories that demonstrate the importance of avoiding discriminatory practices in the workplace.  It is imperative that employees receive equal treatment on the job.  Though discrimination today is subtle, it continues to be problematic.  If we continue to act preferentially, employee motivation will be adversely affected, and eventually performance will cease.  By participating in such practices, we are steadily building the foundation for disaster.

"If you believe that discrimination exists, it will." --Anthony J. D'Angelo, The College Blue Book

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This tutorial was produced for Psy 324, Advanced Social Psychology, Spring 2000 at Miami University.  All graphics are from the public domain, used with permission, or were created by the authors.  Social Psychology / Miami University (Ohio USA).   Last revised: Tuesday, March 11, 2014 at 23:55:31. This document has been accessed 1 times since 1 May 2000. Comments & Questions to R. Sherman