Discrimination in the workplace often happens because one person holds a deep bias against another person. A supervisor believes that African American workers are not as productive as Caucasian workers, for instance, and so he discriminates against the African American workers when hiring new employees or assigning jobs to them. This is just one example of many potential biases people could hold.
What gets tricky is that people are not always obvious and honest about the way that they feel. They may deny that these biases exist. In truth, they may not even realize that they do. But researchers who studied it found that these biases could very well exist anyway, even if people who hold them appear to be fair and well-balanced from the outside. It’s something that researchers had been considering for a long time.
“Twenty years ago, we hypothesized that there were people who said they were not prejudiced but who really did have unconscious negative stereotypes and beliefs,” said one psychologist of their findings. “It was like theorizing about the existence of a virus, and then one day seeing it under a microscope.”
This does make things very complicated. You may feel discriminated against in the workplace, but that doesn’t mean the person doing it will be outright with their feelings. They may seem like they would never do such a thing. They may have a great reputation. They may even claim to be your friend.
Remember, none of that means that it’s all in your head. You could still be experiencing very real discrimination. Make sure you know what legal steps you can take.