Affirmative Action in the Workplace Pros and Cons

Affirmative action policies are implemented to provide support and preference to disadvantaged groups.

An example of this is exclusively hiring members of disadvantaged groups for new job positions be it regular jobs, government contractors, federal contractors, or other specialty fields.

Affirmative action has the potential to address income equality, increase access to opportunities such as employment and education, and tackle institutional discrimination in the career playing field for minority employees, and/or female candidates in the job market.

workplace cons

There are differing perspectives on affirmative action steps, with some arguing that it can lead to negative consequences such as lower efficiency, dependency cultures, racial discrimination, bureaucracies, and reinforcement of stereotypes and stigmas.

One common argument against affirmative action is that it may put qualified individuals simply based on race at a disadvantage.

Well-designed affirmative action policies can help address the potential drawbacks of affirmative action and create racial balance.

It is important to clarify that the arguments presented in this article do not necessarily reflect the author’s personal beliefs. The purpose of this article is to explore various perspectives on the topic to provide insight. 

Advantages of Affirmative Action

1. Justice for past discrimination and oppression.

Affirmative action addresses historical discrimination by implementing policies that provide opportunities for disadvantaged ethnic minorities or other demographic groups.

Affirmative action policies have tangible effects on society, such as increased diversity and representation, but at the core of these changes is a belief in justice. While the psychological impacts of affirmative action are immeasurable, they play a vital role in providing closure and rectifying past injustices.

2. Assists underprivileged individuals in advancing socioeconomically.

Social mobility is recognized as a key aspect of a stable and efficient society. Individuals or groups of lower socioeconomic status may find it challenging to break out of this cycle over time and perhaps gain more employment opportunities.

Affirmative action aims to assist communities in need, offering opportunities for advancement promoting positive societal changes, and reverse discrimination.

3. Encourages inclusivity and diversity.

In the workplace, inclusion, and diversity can enhance efficiency and innovation, in addition to providing representative benefits to institutions and offering assistance in the business models.

Businesses and organizations with a limited workforce may struggle to evolve and adapt to shifting demographics, potentially hindering their growth and impact on society. Affirmative action can enhance workforce diversity, providing a broader range of perspectives and skills to improve job performance.

4. Addresses systemic discrimination.

Groups involved in violence or social unrest often cite lack of opportunity, systemic discrimination, and resulting desperation as contributing factors.

While progress has been made in reducing discrimination in modern societies, there is still a lingering legacy that limits opportunities for some individuals, racial minorities, some underrepresented minorities, their sexual orientation,

Affirmative action provides opportunities for individuals and communities who may feel marginalized to achieve success and integration into society, potentially reducing factors that contribute to crime, violence, conflict, and other racial diversity issues.

5. Income enters disadvantaged communities.

Affirmative action can help prevent families from falling into low socioeconomic status, potentially alleviating financial difficulties and homelessness.

Affirmative action helps address discrimination in the housing market, ensuring that all individuals have equal access to housing regardless of their race or ethnicity. Affirmative action helps to prevent this type of discrimination in other areas such as government agencies, people with disabilities, people of color, and even in a college atmosphere student body.

6. Improving education for all in society.

Employment discrimination against demographic groups can occur through direct denial of job opportunities as well as indirectly by restricting access to education.

improving education

Affirmative action policies, affirmative action measures, and action in college admissions as well as other areas of action in education in universities and other educational institutions, aim to provide equal education opportunities for disadvantaged groups, underrepresented minorities, or other minority applicants potentially reducing indirect discrimination in job applicants.

Additionally, better education can benefit communities in various ways, ultimately contributing to societal improvement giving a fairer chance, and eliminating barriers to entry for minority job seekers.

7. Reducing income inequality.

Income inequality in society is often correlated with demographics, with certain ethnic groups consistently earning less than others. These disparities can be attributed to historic discriminatory policies targeting those groups.

Affirmative action aims to address income inequality by offering improved education, job opportunities, and access to institutions for historically disadvantaged groups, potentially resulting in a more robust economy and healthier communities.

8. Increased confidence and self-esteem.

The impact of past discriminatory policies can still make marginalized groups feel excluded from society, even when overt discrimination is no longer allowed.

Affirmative action promotes inclusivity and recognizes diverse contributions, fostering a sense of cohesion within society.

Drawbacks of Affirmative Action

1. Continued discrimination, just in a different direction, and the challenges of affirmative action.

One of the criticisms of affirmative action is that it may perpetuate a different form of discrimination. By giving preferential treatment to certain groups, individuals who do not fall into those categories may feel overlooked or unfairly treated in the hiring process.

Furthermore, some argue that affirmative action can lead to tokenism, where individuals from underrepresented groups are hired simply to meet diversity.

Affirmative action policies may benefit those who are discriminated against, but they can also create a disadvantage for individuals who meet the established criteria.

Some argue that in cases where affirmative action is in place, individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds may be denied opportunities solely based on the demographic element the policy aims to address, leading to discrimination in a different form or toward different groups.

2. The bureaucracy is stifling and inefficient.

Affirmative action programs may sometimes become complicated and costly, shifting resources from other important areas.

In some cases, affirmative action policies can lead to inefficiency and exploitation, potentially enabling a culture of corruption to develop. In such instances, the intended purpose of affirmative action may be skewed for personal gain rather than societal benefit.

3. Dependency culture is a topic of discussion.

Affirmative action can lead to dependency rather than promoting fair competition.

Theoretical cultures of dependence are influenced by complacency, which may occur in performance or any application process.

Complacency can lead to reduced performance, resulting in decreased efficiency within the workplace or institution. Complacency in job applications can hinder decision-makers in finding the most suitable candidates for a role or opportunity.

4. Standards are dropping.

Affirmative action, besides potentially breeding a culture of dependency, could also pave the way for unqualified individuals to snag roles they wouldn’t have landed in a truly fair and discrimination-free recruitment process.

Affirmative action programs often lower standards to assist certain groups, potentially decreasing the overall quality of those in the roles. In critical fields like medicine, where life and death hang in the balance, attention to detail is essential.

5. New stigmatization.

Affirmative action policies have the potential to create new stereotypes, such as unfairly labeling a woman in the office as just being there because of her gender.

This may lead to the perception of them being less qualified than other team members.

These stigmas may hinder the effectiveness of affirmative action programs when introduced in new workplaces or institutions due to the resistance they may face.

6. The decline of meritocracy.

Affirmative action policies consider factors beyond individual merit and direct suitability for a role, leading to a departure from purely meritocratic application and selection processes in places where these policies are implemented.

The absence of meritocracy can result in decreased workplace efficiency and an increase in accidents in important sectors such as healthcare and engineering.

7. Feelings of frustration and resentment.

Excluding qualified candidates from a role or opportunity due to affirmative action may result in frustration and mistrust in society and institutions, potentially impacting social cohesion.

feeling of frustration

Disadvantaged groups may develop feelings of resentment toward the beneficiaries of affirmative action policies, which could potentially escalate and extend to all members of their demographic groups. This resentment has the potential to fuel societal conflicts, such as racial tensions.

8. Unveiling the prejudice: benefiting groups stereotyped.

Affirmative action policies and programs, when prevalent, may contribute to the perception that individuals benefiting from them are less competent compared to those who did not receive such assistance.

This stereotype often includes everyone in the group, even those who didn’t benefit from affirmative action.

9. Equality decreased.

Affirmative action policies have the potential to increase equality and create unintended consequences in certain circumstances.

Affirmative action policies may have unintended consequences, potentially exacerbating social inequality if membership in a targeted demographic becomes a determining factor in success. This could result in predetermined outcomes and the creation of new societal divisions.

10. Alienating deserving people.

Individuals who have missed out on opportunities they were qualified for due to affirmative action may feel that the system is biased against them.

This type of alienation erodes social cohesion, increases tensions between communities, as well as a certain percentage of minorities, and results in societal ghettoization. Ironically, affirmative action was established to address these broader societal issues.


Affirmative action and affirmative action laws as well as discrimination laws have benefits but have many drawbacks. It only works well when a careful balance is maintained and a feeling of opportunity to people belonging is the result.

If your recruitment efforts are not bearing fruit, and/or you need help with affirmative action issues, contact Search Masters for assistance. Our team of professionals can help you find the ideal personnel to empower your business.

Search Masters utilizes numerous online resources and tools to help you find the perfect people for your business.

Search Masters can assist you with creating job postings that could appeal to competent applicants and offer advice on assessing resumes and applications to find the ideal candidate for your business.

In addition, our assistance on interviewing skills, salary discussion tactics, and more is only a phone call away.

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