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Wilfrid Laurier University Lazaridis School of Business & Economics
October 27, 2016
Canadian Excellence



Business: Organizational Behaviour/Human Resource Management (OB/HRM) Area

Research Tidbit: Workplace Diversity Policies Threaten Our Self-Images! The Role of Self-Image Threats in Negative Reactions to Employment Equity Policies

New Research from Dr. Ivona Hideg (OB/HRM)

Nov 25/13

Women and racial minorities continue to face barriers in the workplace that hinder their career advancement. Women hold only 16 % of board seats and 7.5% of top earning positions, while women and minority men hold only 28 % of board seats at Fortune 500 companies. To address these inequalities, employment equity (EE) policies, important diversity policies, have been mandated and implemented worldwide. The effectiveness of EE policies, however, has been hindered by negative reactions from nonbeneficiaries of these policies (e.g., men) and surprisingly also from beneficiaries (e.g., women). Why would such socially beneficial policies encounter negative reactions and how can we overcome these negative reactions to promote diversity and equality in our workplace?

To shed light on this problem, new research from Dr. Ivona Hideg (Wilfrid Laurier University) and Dr. Lance Ferris (Pennsylvania State University) shows that EE policies may undermine positive self-images of both nonbeneficiaries and beneficiaries, and, in turn, they both react negatively to EE policies. This research offers an explanation for past unexpected findings in which women, who are aided by EE policies, sometimes react negatively to EE policies, by showing that in addition to EE policies influencing material self-interest (i.e., employment opportunities) they may also influence psychological self-interest of both nonbeneficiaries and beneficiaries by undermining their positive self-images. This research has important implications for governments that mandate and organizations that implement EE policies. More broadly, our research suggests that considering how self of all stakeholders is impacted by diversity initiatives is important for the success of diversity initiatives.

For more information about this research, please contact Dr. Ivona Hideg (

The full article is forthcoming at Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

Hideg, I., & Ferris, D. L. (in press). Support for employment equity policies: A self-enhancement approach. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

The effectiveness of employment equity (EE) policies has been hindered by negative reactions to these policies. We draw on the self-enhancement literature to expand self-interest accounts of reactions to EE policies to explain inconsistent findings showing that both nonbeneficiaries and beneficiaries react negatively to EE policies. Across four studies, we found that self-image threat influences reactions to gender-based EE policies. Studies 1 and 2 established that EE policies threaten the self-images of both men (nonbeneficiaries) and women (beneficiaries). Study 3 found that that those least likely to experience self-image threat when faced with a gender-based EE policy are the most likely to show positive reactions to EE policies, while Study 4 showed that both men and women react more favorably to EE policies when self-images threats are mitigated through a self-affirmation task. Implications for our understanding of reactions to EE policies are discussed.

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