Perceptions of affirmative action and the potential unintended consequences thereof in the work environment : a study of the designated and non-designated groups in South Africa

University of Stellenbosch. Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences. Dept. of Industrial Psychology. (2009-12)

Thesis (MA (Industrial Psychology))--University of Stellenbosch, 2009.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Affirmative action is arguably one of the more controversial topics in the South African society today. Implemented in response to many years of apartheid which marginalised the Black population of South Africa specifically, this form of redress is aimed at reversing the wrongs of the past and at levelling the playing field in terms of access to scarce resources. Unfortunately, massive social structural changes such as these are hardly ever implemented without encountering resistance and unintended consequences. This is why the aim of this study was to explore the relationship between knowledge of affirmative action and attitudes towards affirmative action, as well as the relationship between attitudes towards affirmative action and the different forms of (dysfunctional) consequences this could have in the South African work environment for both the Designated-(Blacks, Indians, Coloured and White female employees) and Non-designated groups (White male employees) respectively. A non-experimental (ex-post facto) research design were utilised for these purposes. The constructs were defined as follows: knowledge of affirmative action as the respondents’ actual knowledge of South Africa’s Employment Equity Act, (1998) and attitudes towards affirmative action as the respondents’ stance (in terms of negativity or sensitivity) towards 5 affirmative action-related debates. These include attitude towards merit, - quotas, -reverse discrimination, - drop in standards, and – tokenism (Charlton & Van Niekerk, 1994; Human, Bluen, & Davies, 1999; Lynch, 1989; Qunta, 1995). For the Non-designated group (White males), Adams’ equity theory (1965) was used to explain how perceived inequity in the work environment could lead to certain forms of dysfunctional work behaviour, namely exit, voice, loyalty, stealing and silence (Hirschman, 1970; Pinder, 1998). For the Designated groups, relational demography theory (Riordian, 2000; Williams & O’Reilly, 1998) was used to argue how possible “out-group” status of affirmative action candidates could lead to lower levels of job satisfaction, group cohesion and organisational commitment, as well as to higher levels of conflict and role ambiguity. An availability sample of one-hundred-and-eighty respondents was drawn from the databases of several leading recruitment agencies in the Western Cape. Several scales were utilised, of which all were added into one composite questionnaire.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Daar kan argumenteer word dat regstellende aksie waarskynlik vandag een van die mees kontroversie le temas is in die Suid-Afrikaanse samelewing. Regstellende aksie is g implimenteer in reaksie op baie jare van apartheid waarin veral die Swart Suid-Afrikaanse populasie ontsien is van baie geleenthede, en stel dus ten doel ‘n ommeswaai in die verkeerde praktyke van die verlede sowel as die gelykmaking van die speelveld in terme van toegang tot skaars hulpbronne te bring. Ongelukkig is dit so dat massiewe sosiale strukturele veranderinge soos hierdie byna nooit g implimenteer word sonder weerstand en nie-vooraf verwagte gevolge nie. Die doel van hierdie studie was daarom om die verhouding tussen kennis van regstellende aksie en houdings teenoor regstellende aksie, sowel as die verhoudings tussen houdings teenoor regstellende aksie en verskillende disfunksionele gevolge in die Suid-Afrikaanse werksplek as gevolg hiervan, vir beide die Aangewese (Swart, Indi r, Gekleurde en Wit vroulike werknemers) en Nie-aangewese (Blanke manlike werknemers) groepe onderskeidelik, te ondersoek. A nie- eksperimentele (ex-post facto) navorsingsontwerp was gebruik om hierdie doel te bereik. Die belangrike konstrukte was gedefinie r as volg: kennis van regstellende aksie as die respondente se werklike kennis van Suid-Afrika se Wet op Gelyke Indiensneming (1998) en houdings teenoor regstellende aksie as die respondente se standpunt (in terme van negatiwiteit of sensitiwiteit) teenoor vyf regstellende aksie-verwante debatte. Hierdie debatte sluit in houding teenoor meriete, - kwotas, - omgekeerde diskriminasie, - verlaging van standaarde en -“tokenism” (Charlton & Van Niekerk, 1994; Human, Bluen, & Davies, 1999; Lynch, 1989; Qunta, 1995). Vir die Nie- aangewese groep (Wit mans), is Adams se billikheidsteorie (1965) gebruik om te verduidelik hoe die persepsie van onbillikheid in die werksplek kan lei tot sekere vorms van disfunksionele werksgedrag, naamlik “exit, voice, loyalty, stealing” en “silence” (Hirschman, 1970; Pinder, 1998). Vir die Aangewese groepe was “relational demography” teorie (Riordian, 2000; Williams & O’Reilly, 1998) gebruik om te beskryf hoe moontlike “uit-groep” status van regstellende aksie kandidate kan lei tot laer vlakke van werksatisfaksie, groep kohesie en organisatoriese betrokkenheid, en tot ho r vlakke van konflik en rol dubbelsinnigheid.

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