Your carrot, my stick

Exploring resistance in the workplace as a consequence of racialized emotional labor

The inclusion of people of color in white institutions comes with the emotional labor of choosing whether to “tacitly participate in their marginalization” and earn the “carrot” or “actively resist racist ideologies” and get the “stick” [1].

This emotional labor can be exacerbated by the fact that most people of color are likely to be “an only” for multiple dimensions of identity, which broadens the scope of the microaggressions and racist foundations that they need to contend with[2].

The decision to take the carrot, to fit in, and to find the path of least resistance to success, awakens feelings of being self-serving and embracing one’s portion of the privilege pie in doing whatever it takes to get oneself to the top. In many situations, it creates a need for surface-acting aka “fake it till you make it”, which has been linked to increased burnout and lack of support from peers due to a lack of authenticity[3].

On the other hand, choosing the stick, fighting back, takes a lot of courage, emotional intelligence and resilience, and will most likely damage one’s reputation in the workplace with the biggest reward most likely being an unsung hero following a catastrophic event.

Including people of color in white institutions should therefore require dismantling pre-conceived ideologies of acceptable behavior and redefining shared values that serve the mental well being and provide the desired sense of belonging that is owed to all human beings. Carrots and sticks should not be offered as an obvious moral choice, but rather be carefully crafted as tools for advancing diversity and inclusion.


  1. Evans, L., & Moore, W. L. (2015). Impossible Burdens: White Institutions, Emotional Labor, and Micro-Resistance. Social Problems, 62(3), 439–454.




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Tina Akiiki

Tina Akiiki

Always learning :-)

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