Negative effects of discrimination in the workplace

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Workplace discrimination doesn’t just affect the victim, it affects the entire workforce and can have a negative impact on the bottom line of any company.

The negative impacts of workplace discrimination range from subtle to blindingly obvious and all employers should make it their priority to avoid discrimination and to train their workforce to do the same.

Lower talent resource

Workplace discrimination is described as any unfair treatment of an individual based on their gender, sexual orientation, age, disability or race. By allowing these criteria to influence decisions in the workplace, an employer potentially rules out highly qualified and capable workers. For example, if Manchester United Football Club's former manager Alex Ferguson had discriminated against black people, three of the starting XI that won the 2008 Champions League wouldn’t have played. Similarly, if the BBC discriminated against gay people, they would never have had the benefit of Jane Hill’s journalistic skill to front their prime time news coverage.

Low morale

When discrimination occurs in the workplace, the victim and his or her colleagues can experience diminished morale. The inherently unfair nature of workplace discrimination means employees are not motivated to do their best, because discrimination demonstrates that there is no meritocracy at play.

Legal risk

One of the more obvious negative effects of workplace discrimination is the obvious and very real risk of legal action. In 2011, a doctor sued an NHS Trust for discrimination and was awarded £4.5 million in compensation. Workplace discrimination is not tolerated in the UK and there are paths of recourse for anyone who has been discriminated against.

Negative PR

Discrimination not only affects productivity and morale, it can also alienate customers. Britain has a formidable history of boycotting and even as far back as 1950, the nation was capable of voting with its feet if discrimination occurred. The Bristol bus boycotts, where customers refused to take the bus until black drivers were employed, marked a turning point in race relations and anti-discrimination sentiment in Britain.


Low morale, low productivity and costly lawsuits will all impact a company’s profit. But the cost of recruitment increases with higher staff turnover and a report by the Centre for American Progress highlights that companies with weak anti-discrimination policies have a higher staff turnover than those with a commitment to equality.