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Journal of Managerial Psychology

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Purpose– The purpose of this paper is to examine the hypothesis that Whiteness is used as a normative standard when comparing a variety of first names.

Design/methodology/approach– Respondents (full- and part-time business students) evaluated names that sounded common, African-American, Russian, and unusual.

Findings– Results from two studies suggest that “common” or “neutral” names are perceived to be white, and to be more American than African-American, Russian or unusual-sounding names. Results also demonstrate that the common names have more positive attributes, including socio-economic class.

Research limitations/implications– The study found that the basic comparison of American respondents will be to a white person. Second, the authors applied Critical Race Theory (CRT) to the research on names. Finally, the authors demonstrate that unless they are totally anonymous, virtual teams will still have the type of social categorization and stereotyping of team members found in ordinary teams.

Practical implications– Organizations and managers need to recognize that a “colorblind” approach simply reinforces the expectation that any differences in American organizations will be compared against the Whiteness standard. This can be a problem in any organizational setting, especially given the proliferation of virtual teams. This may be addressed with attempts to increase common in-group identity and strategies for identifying bias.

Originality/value– In this research the authors integrate concepts and theory from Virtual Teams, CRT and the Psychology of Names, providing both theoretical and practical implications.


Accepted version. Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 29, No. 4 (2014): 405-422. DOI. © 2014 Emerald Publishing Limited. Used with permission.

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