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Racial biases affect many important personnel decisions such as performance appraisal and promotion. Yet, little is known about how these biases might influence evaluations of employee lateness behaviour. Integrating attribution theory and research on racial stereotypes and meta-stereotypes, we investigated whether tardy Black and Hispanic employees are penalized harsher than their White counterparts in terms of unfavourable personnel outcomes. Findings from a national US survey (= 2,789) showed that Black employees perceive fewer advancement opportunities the more often they are late – an effect that did not hold true for Hispanic or White incumbents. A follow-up experimental study with full-time working adults (= 204) further illustrated that the tardiness of Black, but not White, employees negatively impacts their performance appraisal ratings and subsequent chances of advancement. This model of differential penalization of lateness behaviour suggests similar processes may generalize to other forms of stereotypical misbehaviour in organizations.

Practitioner Points

  • Both employees and managers should be made aware that lateness behaviours are viewed differently for Black, White and Hispanic employees with the penalizing effect applying only to Black employees.
  • Managers should avoid differential evaluation of the same lateness behaviour of their racially diverse employees when evaluating performance and making subsequent promotion decisions.
  • Managers could be trained to focus on behaviours, not the race of employees, when making important personnel decisions.