November 2, 2022

Black Employees Are Judged Negatively For Self-Promotion, Study Finds

If you’re working in the corporate world, you are already very aware of the microaggressions and covert forms of racism that exist.  From being judged for how you look or penalized for undergoing self-promotion, it is challenging to exist in spaces that society did not build for us nor welcome us. 

A new study by the National Library of Medicine has revealed that management perceived self-promotion very differently depending on who was partaking in it.

The study indicated that Black employees who promoted their work were rated ‘less favorably’ on job performance than their white, Hispanic, and Asian counterparts.  Researchers also found that Black employees who promoted their work were seen as less likely to ‘fit’ into the organization than those who didn’t.

To self-promote or not to self-promote?

For decades, career coaches have encouraged employees to share their achievements and highlight their progression to appear more “visible,” but that advice seems counter-productive for the Black community. 

Read: Black And Latinx Employees Face Bias in Job Performance Feedback, Study Finds

“This research highlights the potential trap of self-promotion; career advancement is predicated on others knowing about your achievements and successes, and yet, those who openly advertise their accomplishments may be penalized for doing so.”

“This is why sponsorship for Black employees in particular is so important,” said Rosalind Chow, associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University, responding to the study in a LinkedIn post.

“If Black employees can’t speak well of themselves, then it means that they must rely on others to do so for them in order to attain the same level of visibility. Your task for today: elevate a Black co-worker. Find out what successes they have had, and look for opportunities to bring this information forward.”

The role of sponsorship

Fewer than a third of Black employees report having sponsors according to research on the Black experience in the private sector, led by Bryan Hancock and Monne Williams at McKinsey,

Hancock explained that sponsorship involves “providing honest coaching and feedback, creating career opportunities, and raising their name and profile when openings are being discussed at the senior level.” 

“There is also an analytics element,” Monne added. “When you are managing thousands of people on the front end of your talent pipeline, you need to invest more in data-based talent processes to help assess, manage, and advance people.” 

What the recent research makes clear is we cannot place the burden of career advancement on Black employees alone, especially when they are being penalized for speaking up for themselves or promoting their skills.

Kumba Kpakima

Kumba Kpakima is a reporter at POCIT. A documentary about the knife crime epidemic in the UK got her a nomination for the UK's #30toWatch Young Journalists of the Year.