Self-Promotion Has Unique Consequences for Black Employees

Topic(s): diversity, fairness
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology
Article: The Cost of Managing Impressions for Black Employees: An Expectancy Violation Theory Perspective
Authors: S.J. Wayne, J. Sun, D.H. Kluemper, G.W. Cheung, A. Ubaka
Reviewed by: Shayla Bianchi

Employees often engage in self-promotion, the act of creating a professional image by communicating one’s strengths, abilities, contributions, and accomplishments. However, it is unclear whether this behavior has the same benefits for all employees. Considering that Black employees frequently face competence-related stereotypes such as inadequate skills and low job competence, self-promotion may have unintended negative effects if managers view this behavior as going against expected norms. This may help to explain the lack of representation of Black employees that is currently seen at the managerial level within many of the largest companies in the United States.


To study this topic, researchers (Wayne et al., 2022) administered surveys in two parts. The first survey was given to employees and measured self-promotion and idiosyncratic deals. These so-called “i-deals” are unique developmental opportunities that are negotiated between employees and managers. The second survey was taken by the employees’ managers and asked about the employees’ fit with the organization. Information on race, gender, and performance ratings were also collected from HR systems.

The authors found that, compared to White, Hispanic, and Asian employees, Black employees who engaged in self-promotion received lower manager ratings of job performance and fit with the organization, as well as fewer developmental i-deals negotiated with their manager. Interestingly, Black employees were rated higher on fit with the organization and negotiated more i-deals than other racial groups when self-promotion was low.


These findings show that not all racial groups experience the same biases in the workplace. As such, the researchers warn against grouping all “people of color” together when incorporating race into implicit bias training. They suggest that organizations regularly assess practices such as performance ratings and developmental i-deals to ensure that employee race is not influencing these managerial decisions.

The authors also emphasize that the obligation to remove racial barriers falls on the organization; employees who experience discrimination should not be required to alter their behavior to avoid racial stereotypes.



Wayne, S. J., Sun, J., Kluemper, D. H., Cheung, G. W., & Ubaka, A. (2022). The cost of managing impressions for Black employees: An expectancy violation theory perspective. Journal of Applied Psychology. Advance online publication.

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