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FOCUS – ADDRESSING BIAS AND RACISM OF BLACK WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP AND EMPLOYMENT

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Article-  Race and Reactions to Women’s Expressions of Anger at Work: Examining the Effects of the “Angry Black Woman” Stereotype

Authors-  Motro, Daphna
Evans, Jonathan B.
Ellis, Aleksander P. J.
Benson, Lehman I. I. I. I. I. I. 

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Baker, V. L., & Pifer, M. J. (2011). The role of relationships in the transition from doctor to independent scholar. Studies in Continuing Education, 33(1), 5-17. http://doi.org/10.1080/0158037X. 2010.515569

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RESEARCH REPORT

Race and Reactions to Women’s Expressions of Anger at Work: Examining
the Effects of the “Angry Black Woman” Stereotype

Daphna Motro1, Jonathan B. Evans2, Aleksander P. J. Ellis2, and Lehman Benson III2
1 Frank G. Zarb School of Business, Hofstra University
2 Eller College of Management, University of Arizona

Across two studies (n = 555), we examine the detrimental effects of the “angry black woman” stereotype in
the workplace. Drawing on parallel-constraint-satisfaction theory, we argue that observers will be
particularly sensitive to expressions of anger by black women due to widely held stereotypes. In Study
1, we examine a three-way interaction among anger, race, and gender, and find that observers are more likely
to make internal attributions for expressions of anger when an individual is a black woman, which then leads
to worse performance evaluations and assessments of leadership capability. In Study 2, we focus solely on
women and expand our initial model by examining stereotype activation as a mechanism linking the effects
of anger and race on internal attributions. We replicated findings from Study 1 and found support for
stereotype activation as an underlying mechanism. We believe our work contributes to research on race,
gender, and leadership, and highlights an overlooked stereotype in the management literature. Theoretical
and practical implications are discussed.

Keywords: anger, race, gender, stereotype, attribution

Supplemental materials: https://doi.org/10.1037/apl0000884.supp

While black women constitute nearly 7% of the workforce (U.S.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018), they continue to be underrepre-
sented in leadership positions (Smith et al., 2019), with no black
female CEOs in the Fortune 500 (Fortune, 2019). In an effort to
better understand potential causes of underrepresentation, research-
ers have investigated whether there may be barriers preventing black
women from progressing up the corporate ladder, such as limited
access to social networking and fewer mentoring opportunities
(Beckwith et al., 2016). However, the majority of research up to
this point has focused on barriers common to both black men and
black women (e.g., tokenism, Sackett et al., 1991). We know less
about potential barriers that are unique to the experiences of
black women.
In an effort to begin filling this gap within the literature, we

investigate the implications of the “angry black woman” stereo-
type, which depicts black females as aggressive and hostile in
their interactions with others (Walley-Jean, 2009). Using parallel-
constraint-satisfaction theory (PCST; Kunda & Thagard, 1996),

we argue that observers’ interpretations of expressions of anger by
black women at work will activate the “angry black woman”
stereotype. Subsequently, observers will attribute the anger of
black women to internal factors, which are then expected to
negatively influence perceptions of her performance and leader-
ship capabilities. As anger is an emotion commonly expressed and
experienced at work (Geddes & Stickney, 2011), the angry black
woman stereotype has the potential to negatively impact black
women’s employment status and career progress. Understanding
the barriers that black women face in the workplace is a complex
issue, and we present the angry black woman stereotype as one
factor among many that can negatively impact their career. We
focus specifically on internal attributions and stereotype activa-
tion as the mechanisms that explain the effects of the angry black
woman stereotype on important downstream workplace outcomes
(e.g., performance evaluations).

To more fully understand the role of the angry black woman
stereotype in the workplace, we draw on PCST, which asserts that
when forming an impression of an individual, people consider
(a) any common stereotypes, and (b) any individuating information,
such as observed behavior (Read et al., 1997). Both stereotypes and
individuating information are evaluated in parallel and constrain one
another to affect impressions formed about others. According to
PCST, stereotypes influence the interpretation of observed behavior
so that it aligns with our expectations.

We believe our work makes several contributions. First, we
contribute to research on emotion in the workplace by showing
how expressions of emotion are evaluated differently depending on
demographics. Past research has shown that people react more
negatively when women express anger compared to men, due to

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This article was published Online First April 1, 2021.

Daphna Motro https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8469-8279
This research was funded in part by the University of Arizona Department

of Management and Organizations and presented at the 2019 Annual
Meeting of the Academy of Management in Boston, MA. Jonathan B.
Evans can now be contacted at [email protected]
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Daphna

Motro, Frank G. Zarb School of Business, Hofstra University, 134 Hofstra
University, Hempstead, NY 11549, United States. Email: [email protected]
hofstra.edu

Journal of Applied Psychology

© 2021 American Psychological Association 2022, Vol. 107, No. 1, 142–152
ISSN: 0021-9010 https://doi.org/10.1037/apl0000884

142

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different role expectations for women (Hercus, 1999; Lewis, 2000).
Our work shows that this may not be equally true for all women, and
people have heightened sensitivity to expressions of anger by black
women. Second, we add to the literature on race and its effects in
organizations. Past work has mainly focused on how the experience
of black individuals differs from that of white individuals (e.g.,
Bertrand & Mullainathan, 2004). Our work suggests that it may not
always be appropriate to group all black employees together as the
experiences of black women may be different from the experiences
of black men. In our study, we find that black men are not penalized
for expressing anger at work, only black women. Third, we add to
research examining the effects of gender on leadership emergence in
organizations and a potential glass ceiling effect (Badura et al.,
2018; Diehl & Dzubinski, 2016). While all women may face hurdles
when trying to advance up the corporate ladder, our work suggests
that there may be unique hurdles for black women as they try to
navigate the corporate landscape. Finally, a common theme
throughout our contributions is the concept of intersectionality,
which focuses on examining the effects of membership in two or
more demographic categories, such as gender and race (Crenshaw,
1990; Hall et al., 2019). We shed light on the intersection between
being black and being female and show how stereotype activation
and changes in internal attributions are unique to this specific
category of women.

PCST and the Angry Black Woman Stereotype

According to PCST, observed behavior that is open to ambiguous
interpretation is likely to be affected by the presence of stereotypes,
which constrain how we interpret an event until that interpretation is
consistent with our stereotypes (Kunda & Thagard, 1996). For
example, an elbow nudge is an ambiguous behavior that can be
interpreted as a forceful shove or jovial push. Studies have shown that
an elbow nudge by a black man is more likely to be interpreted as a
forceful shove, which aligns with the stereotype of an angry and
physically aggressive black male, while an elbow nudge by a white
man is more likely to be interpreted as a jovial push (Blair et al.,
2004; Sagar & Schofield, 1980). One important interpretation made
by observers is the causal mechanisms of behavior, such as internal
versus external (Martinko, 1995). Behavior that is interpreted as
internally caused is attributed to something about the person, such as
his/her personality. Observers could conclude that expressed anger at
work stems from heightened levels of trait anger. On the other hand,
behavior that is interpreted as externally caused is attributed to
something about the situation, such as the environment (Russell,
1982). For instance, observers could conclude that anger expressed
by others at work is a result of being treated unjustly. In sum,
internally caused behavior is viewed as an indicator of disposition,
while externally caused behavior is viewed as an indicator of
environmental factors (e.g., luck; Yew Wong & Acur, 2010). Stereo-
types are seen as dispositional characteristics that are attributed to
certain groups and prompt internal attributions (Wilder et al., 1996).
One stereotype is that of the angry black woman, which has also

been referred to as the “matriarch” or “sapphire” stereotype, and
depicts a verbally aggressive, unfeminine black female who contin-
uously emasculates her black male partner (Salerno et al., 2017;
Walley-Jean, 2009). The stereotype is rooted in the institution of
slavery and oversimplifies the image of the black woman who
refused to conform to the era’s expectations of being a hard-working

and submissive slave (White, 1999); an image that has subsequently
been reinforced in the media (Cheers, 2017; Childs, 2005). Televi-
sion shows often include a token black woman who is expected to
entertain the audience with her irrational anger and hostility
(Tyree, 2011).

There is also empirical evidence for the existence of this stereo-
type. For instance, black female students at a predominantly white
university reported experiencing “micro-aggressions,” or subtle
slights (e.g., insensitive comments) from other students, and were
cognizant of the existence of the angry black woman stereotype
(Lewis et al., 2016). Rasinski and Czopp (2010) found that when
viewing a debate on college scholarships, university students rated
black female speakers as ruder than white female speakers, even
when the content of the message was the same. Donovan (2011)
provided participants the opportunity to select 5 out of 92 traits
that best characterized black women and white women. Some of the
most frequently chosen traits for black women were those
associated with the angry black woman stereotype (e.g., “loud,”
“tough,” “strong”) compared to white women (e.g., “sensitive,”
“independent,” “family-oriented”). In a qualitative study, Smith
et al. (2019) interviewed 59 senior-level black female managers
and executives in a variety of different industries. The interviewees
frequently mentioned the angry black woman stereotype and some
explained how it negatively affected their job.

As PCST asserts that interpretations of behavior are largely
constrained by the stereotypes we hold (Kunda & Thagard,
1996), it follows that if a black woman expresses anger, observers
are likely influenced by the angry black woman stereotype. They are
likely to attribute the anger to internal causes, assuming that the
anger is a reflection of her disposition. Because observers do not
hold the same stereotype for white women or for men, expressions
of anger are less likely to be attributed to internal causes for white
women or men. As trait anger is not regarded as a desirable
characteristic in the workplace (Kant et al., 2013), we expect these
internal attributions to have detrimental consequences for black
women. It is important to note that while the stereotype of the angry
black man does exist, it tends to portray angry black men as
physically aggressive (Shapiro et al., 2009). The angry black
man stereotype does not include the sort of “sassiness” or
“emasculation” that is characteristic of the angry black woman
stereotype (Carpenter, 2012). The type of anger we examine is
non-physical, which tends to be much more common than physical
anger at work (e.g., hitting someone). As such, we believe that non-
physical expressions of anger will activate stereotypes specific to
black women. Thus, we hypothesize the following:

Hypothesis 1. There will be a three-way interaction among
anger, race, and gender on perceptions of internal causality.
Specifically, perceptions of internal causality will be highest
when a black female employee expresses anger.

We then argue that when observers attribute the cause of anger to
internal dispositions, subsequent evaluations of the employee are
likely to be negative. Because trait anger is not particularly desir-
able, in part because of its links to abusive leadership (Kant et al.,
2013) and deviant behavior (Restubog et al., 2010), we consider two
important outcomes likely to be harmed. First, we examine perfor-
mance evaluations, which serve as a basis for personnel decisions in

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RACE AND ANGER 143

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organizations (Greenhaus et al., 1990) and determine career pro-
gression (Cianci et al., 2010). Second, we examine assessments of
leadership capability, which researchers argue is a vital ingredient
for succeeding and progressing within an organization (Pierce &
Newstrom, 2000). We expect that internal attributions ascribed to a
black woman’s expressions of anger will lead to these negative
reactions.

Hypothesis 2. Expressions of anger will negatively affect (a)
performance evaluations and (b) assessments of leadership
capability through perceptions of internal causality when an
employee is female and black.

Study 1 Method

Participants and Procedure

We conducted an experiment using a sample of 302 undergradu-
ate business students enrolled in business management courses at a
large university in the southwestern United States. The study
received institutional review board approval under protocol
#DM2015 (“Crying in the Organization”) from the University of
Arizona. They participated in the study in exchange for course
credit. The average age was 21.25 years (SE = .18) and 47% were
female. The sample was 56.6% White Non-Hispanic, 21.5% His-
panic, 12.3% Asian, 4% African-American/Black, and 5.6% other.
Participants were randomly assigned to 1 of 8 conditions in a 2

(employee display of anger: yes, no) × 2 (employee race: black,
white) × 2 (employee gender: male, female) between-subjects fac-
torial design. The “no anger display” conditions are also referred to
as “neutral.” Participants watched a video recording of a perfor-
mance feedback session. They were instructed to imagine that they
were the direct supervisor and that afterwards they would be asked
questions about the employee who received the feedback. Before
watching the video, participants read a copy of the CV for a grocery
store manager named Jordan. Jordan was described as a “resourceful
grocery store manager with great experience in directing and
managing store staff.” Participants were then asked to watch a
video of Jordan receiving performance feedback from his/her direct
supervisor, who was always a white male (see also Motro &
Ellis, 2017).

Manipulations and Measures

Anger, Race, Gender

Four actors/actresses, all university students in their early twen-
ties, auditioned and were selected to play the role of an employee
named Jordan. There was one black female actress, one white female
actress, one black male actor, and one white male actor. Each actor/
actress played the role for both the anger display and neutral display
videos. The eight videos, each approximately 5 min long, were
filmed and edited by a professional videographer (participants were
only allowed to watch the clip once). The direct supervisor, a white
male, sat across the table from Jordan. Only a small part of the back
of the supervisor’s head was visible so that participants never saw
his face.
The script in all eight videos was identical and began with a short

introduction in which the supervisor explained the performance

evaluation process. After offering Jordan the chance to judge his/her
own performance, the direct supervisor told Jordan that his/her
performance as general manager has been “unsatisfactory” and
stressed that he/she had “not achieved the goals that upper manage-
ment had set for him/her.” In the anger display conditions, Jordan’s
tone began to increase, and he/she shouted and yelled at the
supervisor. Nonverbal behavior changed as well. Jordan would
furrow his/her brow, bang fists down on the table, throw hands
up in outrage, and shift frequently in the seat. In the neutral
conditions, Jordan made the exact same statements but kept
his/her tone even and gestures minimal.1

Manipulation Checks

To verify that participants watched the video, they answered a set
of four questions: “Was Jordan male or female?” (99.7% answered
correctly), “What race was Jordan?” (possible answers included
African-American/Black, White Non-Hispanic, Hispanic, Asian, or
other; 96% answered correctly), “Was the direct supervisor male or
female?” (99.7% answered correctly), and “How intense was
Jordan’s anger?” on a scale from (1) not intense at all to (7) very
intense. The average response in the anger conditions (M = 6.12,
SD = .82) was significantly higher than the average response in the
neutral conditions (M = 4.34, SD = 1.00), F(1, 283) = 273.39,
p < .001, η2 = .491.

Perceptions of Internal Causality

Participants completed a three-item locus of causality scale from
Russell (1982). Participants were asked to think about the degree to
which Jordan’s reaction to the performance feedback was internal.
Scale reliability (α = .68) was consistent with previous research
(Donovan & Williams, 2003; Ellis et al., 2006).

Performance Evaluation

Participants completed a three-item evaluation scale regarding the
degree to which Jordan’s performance was positive (α = .77;
Heilman & Chen, 2005).

Assessment of Leadership Capability

Participants completed a four-item scale used in Rosette et al.
(2008) based on capabilities required for effective leadership (i.e.,
intelligence, competence, confidence, competitiveness; α = .74).

Study 1 Results

See Tables 1 and 2 for means, SDs, and correlations. Confirma-
tory factor analyses (CFA) supported a three-factor solution. The
model wherein items loaded separately on perceptions of internal
causality, performance evaluation, and leadership capability fit the
data well, χ2(32) = 53.81, p = .009, CFI = .97, SRMR = .04, and
provided the best fit to the data (see Table 3).

Hypothesis 1 stated that there would be a three-way interaction
among anger, race, and gender on perceptions of internal causality,
such that perceptions of internal causality would be highest when a
black female employee expresses anger. To test Hypothesis 1, we

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1 Videos are available upon request from the first author.

144 MOTRO, EVANS, ELLIS, AND BENSON

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performed a 2 × 2 × 2 between-subjects analysis of variance
(ANOVA) on perceptions of internal causality. The three-way inter-
action approached significance, F(1, 294) = 3.72, p = .055,
η2 = .01.2 See Figure. 1 for a graph of the interaction. To further
explore the interaction, we conducted a set of pairwise comparisons.
When the employee expressed anger, perceptions of internal causality
were marginally higher when the employee was a black female
compared to when she was a white female, F(1, 294) = 3.15,
p = .077, η2 = .01. When the employee was black, perceptions of
internal causality were significantly higher when she was an angry
female compared to when she was an angry male, F(1, 294) = 10.61,
p < .001, η2 = .04. When the employee was female, perceptions of
internal causality were marginally higher when she was angry and
black compared to when she was neutral and black, F(1, 294) = 3.55,
p = .060, η2 = .01. Taken together, these results provide partial
support for Hypothesis 1.3

Hypothesis 2 proposed moderated mediation (see Bauer et al.,
2006; Hayes, 2009, 2015, 2018) and stated that expressions of anger
will negatively affect (a) performance evaluations and (b) assessments
of leadership capability through perceptions of internal causality
when the employee was female and black. To test Hypothesis 2,
we used Mplus Version 8 (Muthén & Muthén, 1998–2017). We
employed a Monte Carlo approach using 10,000 bootstrap samples to
create 95% confidence intervals (CIs) in estimating the effects.
In our model, we entered expressions of anger as the independent

variable, with employee race as the primary moderator, and employee
gender as the secondary moderator. We entered perceptions of
internal causality as the mediator and each outcome as dependent

variables (performance evaluations and assessments of leadership
capability). The indices of moderated mediation and conditional
indirect effects were significant (see Table 4). For both outcome
variables, the index of moderated mediation was significant when the
employee was female, but not when the employee was male. Further
examination among female employees indicated that the indirect
effects of anger were not significant when she was white, but were
significant when she was black. These results support Hypotheses 2a
and 2b and indicate that anger negatively affects performance
evaluations and assessments of leadership capability due to height-
ened internal attributions when expressed by a black woman.4

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Table 1
Means and Standard Deviations for Study 1 Variables by Condition

Employee anger Anger Neutral

Employee race Black White Black White

Employee gender Female Male Female Male Female Male Female Male

Perceptions of internal causality 7.44 (1.29) 6.24 (1.53) 6.87 (1.43) 6.86 (2.02) 6.84 (1.43) 6.45 (1.98) 7.24 (1.55) 6.61 (1.58)
Performance evaluations 2.05 (0.90) 2.67 (1.20) 2.12 (0.77) 2.31 (0.92) 2.28 (0.87) 2.61 (0.95) 2.17 (0.93) 2.24 (0.77)
Leadership capabilities 3.82 (1.31) 4.18 (1.19) 3.57 (1.20) 3.15 (1.29) 3.99 (1.23) 4.19 (1.14) 3.90 (1.43) 3.80 (1.04)

Note. N = 302. Standard deviations are in parentheses. Perceptions of internal causality were measured on a scale from 1–9. All other variables were measured
on a scale from 1–7.

Table 2
Correlations Among Study 1 Variables and Experimental Conditions

Variable M SD 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.

1. Employee anger 0.50 0.50 —
2. Employee race 0.51 0.50 .00 —
3. Employee gender 0.62 0.49 .01 .00 —
4. Perceptions of causality 6.89 1.60 .03 −.03 .17** —
5. Performance evaluations 2.27 0.92 −.04 .08 −.16** −.38** —
6. Leadership capabilities 3.83 1.27 −.11 .15* .00 −.26** .44** —
7. Participant gender 0.47 0.50 −.05 .01 .06 .07 −.01 .06 —
8. Participant race 0.29 0.45 −.02 −.56** −.06 −.02 −.05 −.14* −.09 —

Note. N = 302. Employee anger was coded as 0 = neutral, 1 = anger. Employee race was coded as 0 = white, 1 = black. Employee gender was coded as
0 = male, 1 = female. Participant gender was coded as 0 = male, 1 = female. Participant race was coded as 0 = not the same race as the employee in the video,
1 = the same race as the employee in the video. Perceptions of internal causality were measured on a scale from 1 to 9. All other variables were measured on a
scale from 1 to 7.
* p < .05. ** p < .01.

2 Based on social identity theory (Ashforth & Mael, 1989), it is possible
that black participants evaluate angry black women differently than non-
black participants (e.g., white, Hispanic). To examine this possibility, we
performed a three-way ANOVA among employee display of anger (yes vs.
no), employee race (black vs. white), and participant race (black vs. not
black). The interaction was not significant, F(1, 294) = .34, ns. However, it
is also important to note that only 4% of our sample identified as black. We
also analyzed the three-way interaction while controlling for participants’
perceptions of Jordan’s attractiveness, participant gender, and whether the
participant’s race matched the race of the actor/actress in the video to account
for potential in-group gender and race biases (Ashforth & Mael, 1989;
Wharton, 1992). When controlling for these variables, the three-way inter-
action term was significant, F(1, 291) = 3.94, p = .048, η2 = .01.

3 We note that although angry white men were perceived as higher in
internal causality than angry black men, the difference was not statistically
significant, MD (mean difference) = .62, SE = .42, p = .139.

4 We also ran the analysis while controlling for participants’ perceptions of
Jordan’s attractiveness, participant gender, and whether the participant’s race
matched the race of the actor/actress in the video. The results remained the same.

RACE AND ANGER 145

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Study 1 Discussion

The results from Study 1 provide initial support for the proposed
effects of race and gender on the interpretation of expressed anger in
the workplace. However, there are certain limitations that we sought
to address with a second study. First, we wanted to replicate our
findings in a different context, with stimulus materials that avoid
visual confounds between conditions (e.g., attractiveness). Second,
we wanted to test our model using a sample of working adults.
Third, we wanted to expand our understanding of the mediating
mechanisms by including stereotype activation. Finally, we note
that because we did not find any stereotype effects for men in
Study 1, we focus solely on women in Study 2.

Study 2

According to our previous arguments, when forming an impres-
sion of an individual, people consider whether the behavior aligns
with stereotypical expectations. In the context of expressing anger at
work, the angry black woman stereotype is likely to influence
impression formation because when a specific behavior conforms
to a well-known societal stereotype, the stereotype becomes
“activated” (i.e., becomes more accessible in the mind; Wheeler &
Petty, 2001). This activation will likely constrain the interpretation of

the observed behavior and prompt internal attributions (Wilder et al.,
1996). As a result, we argue that stereotype activation drives the
effects of race and anger on internal attributions and subsequent
evaluations:

Hypothesis 3. Expressions of anger will negatively affect (a)
performance evaluations and (b) assessments of leadership
capability sequentially through stereotype activation and per-
ceptions of internal causality when a female employee is black.

Study 2 Method

Participants and Procedure

Study 2 was conducted using a sample of 253 participants recruited
from Amazon Mechanical Turk. The study received institutional
review board approval under protocol #DM2015 (“Crying in the
Organization”) from the University of Arizona. The average age was
36.16 years (SE = .67) and 45% female. The sample was 68.8%
White Non-Hispanic, 7.5% Hispanic, 11.5% Asian, 9.5% African-
American/Black, and 2.7% other. With regard to employment status,
73.1% of participants were full-time employees, 7.1% were part-time
employees, 12.3% were self-employed, and 7.5% were not employed
at the time. Participants were randomly assigned to one of four
conditions in a 2 (employee display of anger: yes, no) × 2 (employee
race: black, white) between-subjects factorial design. As in Study 1,
the “no anger display” conditions are referred to as “neutral.”

We told participants that we were interested in the topic of
leadership, and that they should imagine they were a sales repre-
sentative at a marketing company called “Insight Marketing.” The
participants were told to imagine that one day on the job another
employee at Insight Marketing came to their desk to speak with
them, and that they would be listening to an audio recording of this
other employee. Participants were not told in advance what the topic
of the conversation would be. Participants were then provided more
detail about the employee, including name, gender, and race. Before
listening to the audio clip, participants read through the employee’s
CV. Following the audio clip, participants completed manipulation
check questions and measures of stereotype activation and internal

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Table 3
Fit Statistics for Nested Models for Study 1

Model χ2 Δχ2 CFI SRMR

3 factor χ2 (32) = 53.81* .97 .04
2 factor χ2 (34) = 162.92** Δχ2 (2) = 109.11** .84 .07
1 factor χ2 (35) = 251.54** Δχ2 (3) = 197.73** .73 .10

Note. N = 302. 3 factor = all items loaded onto separate perceptions of
internal causality, performance evaluation, and leadership capability
assessment factors. 2 factor = items for performance evaluation and
leadership capability assessment were combined into one factor.
CFI = comparative fit index. SRMR = standardized root mean squared
residual.
* p < .01. ** p < .001.

Figure 1
Interaction Among Expressions of Anger, Employee Gender, and Employee Race on Perceptions of Internal Causality in
Study 1

146 MOTRO, EVANS, ELLIS, AND BENSON

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causality. Participants also provided (a) performance evaluations
and (b) assessments of leadership capability (outcomes were
counterbalanced).

Manipulations and Measures5

Race

To manipulate race, the employee was given either a traditionally
black or white name. The black employee’s name was “Lakeisha
Wilson,” while the white employee’s name was “Claire Wilson”
(Pharr, 1993). The voice recording in the white race condition was a
white, non-Hispanic female, and the voice recording in the black
race condition was a black female.

Anger

Each audio recording lasted less than 1 min (participants listened
to the clip once). The script was identical across all conditions. In the
script, Claire/Lakeisha told participants that she had seen them come
into work late and that she had spoken many times about them being
paid to come into work at a certain time and to leave at a certain
time. She emphasized that it was not professional to come in late.
Furthermore, she stated that she did not care what the excuse was
(e.g., traffic, bad weather) and that the next time this happened there
would need to be a serious discussion about their future. In the anger
condition, Lakeisha/Claire’s tone was stern and hostile. She raised
her voice throughout the clip and sounded both annoyed and
indignant about the participant’s tardiness. In the neutral condition,
Lakeisha/Claire’s tone was calm and did not decrease or increase.6

Manipulation Checks

Following the audio recording, participants answered a set of
questions, including “Was Lakeisha/Claire male or female?” (99.6%
answered correctly), “What race was Lakeisha/Claire?” (possible
answers included African-American/Black or White Non-Hispanic;
97.6% answered correctly), and “What did Lakeisha/Claire talk
about?” (possible answers included “football game last night,”
“showing up on time,” “cell phone usage at work,” “sales perfor-
mance from last quarter”; 100% answered correctly). Participants
were then asked how angry Lakeisha/Claire got on a scale from (1)
not at all angry to (7) extremely angry. The average response in the

anger conditions (M = 5.79, SD = 1.03) was significantly higher
than the average response in the neutral conditions (M = 3.82,
SD = 1.58), F(1, 251) = 146.98, p < .001, η2 = .360.

Stereotype Activation

We assessed stereotype activation with a modified version of the
Personal Attributes Questionnaire (PAQ; Spence et al., 1974). We
identified four traits stereotypically associated with black indivi-
duals as a whole: “loud,” “aggressive,” “hostile,” “violent” (Smith,
1991; Wheeler & Fiske, 2005). To measure stereotype activation,
participants rated the extent to which black women exhibit these
four traits (α = .89).

Perceptions of Internal Causality

Participants completed the same three-item locus of causality
scale described in Study 1 (α = .89).

Performance Evaluation

Participants answered the three-item performance evaluation
measure described in Study 1 (α = .94).

Assessment of Leadership Capability

Participants completed a seven-item measure used in Agle et al.
(2006) capturing important leadership skills (e.g., being worthy of
trust and respect; α = .94).7

Study 2 Results

See Tables 5 and 6 for means, SDs, and correlations for Study 2.
A CFA supported a four-factor solution. The model wherein items
loaded separately on stereotype activation, perceptions of internal
causality, performance evaluation, and leadership capability fit the

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Table 4
Moderated Mediation Analysis: Effects of Anger, Race, and Gender Through Perceptions of Internal Causality Among Study 1 Variables

DV = Performance evaluation DV = Leadership capability

Coefficient CI Coefficient CI

Index of moderated mediation
Male .10 (.15) [−.20, .39] .09 (.14) [−.18, .39]
Female −.21* (.10) [−.43, −.04] −.20* (.09) [−.42, −.04]

Conditional indirect effects
White male −.06 (.11) [−.26, .17] −.05 (.10) [−.26, .15]
Black male .05 (.10) [−.16, .25] .04 (.10) [−.14, .24]
White female .08 (.07) [−.05, .22] .07 (.06) [−.04, .21]
Black female −.13* (.07) [−.27, −.02] −.12† (.06) [−.27, −.02]

Note. N = 302. Coefficients presented are unstandardized estimates. SEs are in parentheses. CI = 95% confidence interval.
† p < .10. * p < .05. ** p < .01.

5 See the Supplemental Materials for all scale items.
6 Audio clips are available upon request from the first author.
7 We also ran a condition that manipulated employee status in the

organization (high status employee vs. low status employee). There were
no significant effects. Methods and results are available in the supplemental
materials.

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data well, χ2(71) = 119.07, p < .001, CFI = .98, SRMR = .05,
and provided the best fit to the data (see Table 7).
Hypothesis 3 proposed moderated sequential mediation and

stated that expressions of anger will negatively affect (a) perfor-
mance evaluations and (b) assessments of leadership capability
sequentially through stereotype activation and perceptions of inter-
nal causality when the female employee is black. Similar to Study 1,
we followed recommended procedures to employ a Monte Carlo
approach and created 95% confidence intervals (CIs) by using
10,000 bootstrap samples to estimate effects (Bauer et al., 2006).
To test our model, we entered expressions of anger as the

independent variable, with employee race as the moderator. We
entered stereotype activation as the first mediator, perceptions of
internal causality as the second mediator and each of the outcomes
as dependent variables (performance evaluations and assessments of
leadership capability). The indices of moderated mediation were
significant (see Table 8). Further examination indicated that the
indirect effects were not significant when the employee was white
but were significant for each outcome variable when she was black,
as indicated by the fact that the 95% confidence intervals did not
include zero. This supports Hypotheses 3a and 3b.8

General Discussion

Given the particularly glaring underrepresentation of black
women in leadership positions (e.g., Holder et al., 2015), it is
important to determine whether their experiences at work expose
them to unique barriers that limit career progression. We examined
the angry black woman stereotype and argued that it can affect how
others react to expressions of anger by black women at work. Across
two studies, we found support for our hypotheses that participants
will attribute a black woman’s anger to internal factors due to
stereotype activation, which then leads to lower performance eva-
luations and poorer assessments of leadership capabilities.
First, we add to research on emotion in the workplace. Past studies

have shown that we interpret expressions of emotion differently
based on demographic characteristics. For example, males who cry
are punished by observers for engaging in role incongruous behav-
ior, while females who cry elicit no such response (Motro & Ellis,
2017). These differences extend to expressions of anger, as studies
have shown that people react more negatively when women express
anger compared to men, due to different role expectations for
women (Hercus, 1999; Lewis, 2000). Our work is significant in
that it additionally shows that not all women are treated the same
when it comes to expressions of anger. While white women may
have their expressions of anger excused through external

attributions, stereotypes make it more likely that black women
will elicit internal attributions for expressions of anger, which
can then prompt more negative reactions from observers. As a
result, while the strategic expression of anger can be valuable in
certain contexts such as negotiations (Gibson & Schroeder, 2002),
this may not be the case for black women.

Second, our work contributes to research on race in organizations.
Being black in the workplace often leads to bias in one form of
another (see Jones et al., 2016). For example, black job seekers are
expected to negotiate less than white job seekers and receive lower
starting salaries if this expectation is violated (Hernandez et al.,
2019). However, our work suggests that black women may experi-
ence unique hurdles that black men do not face because they carry
with them unique stereotypes that affect how they are treated in the
workplace. When expressing anger, black men receive similar
reactions to white men. Black women, on the other hand, receive
markedly different reactions from white women. In sum, merely
examining differences based on race hinders our understanding of
the experiences of black employees in organizations and future
research should consider how and why being black and female
matters.

Third, we add to research examining the effects of gender on
leadership emergence in organizations. Considerable attention has
been given to understanding barriers preventing women from being
given leadership roles (e.g., Badura et al., 2018; Diehl & Dzubinski,
2016). Leadership emergence tends to depend upon the degree to
which an individual is perceived by others as a capable leader (Judge
et al., 2002), and research examining gender and leadership emer-
gence has most commonly considered how gender role expectations
play an important role is understanding barriers women face (Eagly &
Karau, 2002; Koenig et al., 2011). This work provides important
insights into barriers that women face in general, but it is also critical
to understand difficulties faced by specific categories of women
(i.e., not all women are treated the same). We highlight a distinct
challenge black women face because of one widely held stereotype
and suggest that going beyond broad categorizations (such as gender)
is an important consideration when forming a comprehensive under-
standing of barriers to leadership emergence.

Fourth, our results add to previous work on intersectionality,
which suggests that membership in two or more demographic
categories can have markedly different effects than membership
in one category (Crenshaw, 1990). Our work shows that we can also

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Table 5
Means and Standard Deviations for Study 2 Variables by Condition

Employee anger Anger Neutral

Employee race Black White Black White

Perceptions of internal causality 4.94 (2.36) 4.32 (2.42) 2.71 (1.82) 4.04 (2.18)
Stereotype activation 4.62 (1.25) 3.77 (1.48) 3.51 (1.48) 3.76 (1.40)
Performance evaluations 4.75 (1.62) 5.36 (1.52) 5.74 (1.16) 5.67 (1.10)
Leadership capabilities 3.84 (1.90) 4.49 (1.87) 5.36 (1.47) 5.13 (1.66)

Note. N = 253. Standard deviations are in parentheses. Perceptions of internal causality were measured on a
scale from 1–9. All other variables were measured on a scale from 1–7.

8 Similar to Study 1, we also ran all Study 2 analyses while controlling for
participant gender and whether the participant’s race matched the race of the
actress. The results remained the same.

148 MOTRO, EVANS, ELLIS, AND BENSON

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better understand the effects of being black in organizations if we
also consider whether the individual is female or male. Recent
research on intersectionality has demonstrated how discrimination
can emerge from simple stereotypes using a threshold model
approach (Hester et al., 2020). In line with Hester et al. (2020)’s
argument, our results suggest that even though two individuals are
similar in many respects, stereotypes can make one individual less
likely to reach the threshold for success compared to another
individual. Thus, even though a black female and white female
share similar characteristics, certain stereotypes (e.g., angry black
woman stereotype) can make it more challenging for the black
female to reach the threshold for high competence, therefore
potentially triggering poor performance evaluations and assess-
ments of leadership capabilities.
Fifth, while past research suggests that PCST may serve as a

conceptual backdrop for research on social stereotypes in the
workplace (e.g., Evans et al., 2019), our work enhances PCST
by incorporating attributions into the existing framework. PCST
currently focuses on how stereotypes and individuating information
combine to form different impressions. However, “impression” is a
broad term, defined as “a cognitive representation of a person”
(González-Vallejo et al., 2008, p. 288). Our work identifies attribu-
tions as one specific aspect of an impression. In line with PCST, we
find that the expression of anger by a black female combined with

the angry black woman stereotype affects our impressions, particu-
larly internal attributions, which then affects our evaluations of them
as an employee.

Finally, the results of our research suggest a few practical
implications. Prior research has indicated that once individuals
are made aware of different biases and stereotypes, they are
more likely to recognize them and less likely to succumb to their
influence (Ashburn-Nardo et al., 2001; Costa et al., 2015). As most
people want to hold a positive view of themselves (Mazar et al.,
2008), making individuals aware of any potential stereotypes they
hold (e.g., through training) could curb discrimination. Thus, it
could be fruitful for managers conducting discrimination training
to bring attention to the angry black woman stereotype and its
harmful consequences.

It is also important for managers to communicate that despite
evidence indicating the existence of the stereotype, there is little
evidence suggesting that black women actually are angrier than
white women. Indeed, Walley-Jean (2009) found that trait anger
was not significantly different between 76 black female study
participants and a normative sample of 977 women (which
included both students and full-time employees). In a study on
minority female populations in the United States, Consedine et al.
(2012) found that self-reported trait anger was actually lower
among African-American females compared to U.S.-born
European American females.

Limitations and Directions for Future Research

Despite these implications, we have identified certain limitations
associated with our work. First, the results from our first study only
showed significant indirect effects. Evidence supporting the influ-
ence of race and gender on internal attributions, which in turn
significantly affects performance evaluations and leadership capa-
bilities is one key piece to understanding underrepresentation of
black women in leadership positions. However, these results suggest
that additional variables should be investigated in future research.
For example, the results showed significant differences in attrac-
tiveness, such that participants found the black actor and actress
significantly more attractive than the white actor and actress. While
we found support for Hypothesis 1 even when controlling for
attractiveness, future work should investigate the effect of attrac-
tiveness in understanding observer perceptions during performance

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Table 6
Correlations Among Study 2 Variables and Experimental Conditions

Variable M SD 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.

1. Employee anger 0.52 0.50 —
2. Employee race 0.50 0.50 −.01 —
3. Internal causality 4.03 2.35 .27** −.07 —
4. Stereotype activation 3.92 1.46 .19** .11 .32** —
5. Performance evaluations 5.37 1.42 −.23** −.10 −.45** −.21** —
6. Leadership capabilities 5.16 1.42 −.20** −.09 −.57** −.20** .76** —
7. Participant gender 0.45 0.50 .06 .09 −.06 .02 .03 .08 —
8. Participant race 0.42 0.49 .04 −.59** .12 −.07 .02 .02 −.02 —

Note. N = 253. Employee anger was coded as 0 = neutral, 1 = anger. Employee race was coded as 0 = white, 1 = black. Participant gender was coded as
0 = male, 1 = female. Participant race was coded as 0 = not the same race as the employee in the audio clip, 1 = the same race as the employee in the audio
clip. Perceptions of internal causality were measured on a scale from 1–9. All other variables were measured on a scale from 1–7.
* p < .05. ** p < .01.

Table 7
Fit Statistics for Nested Models for Study 2

Model χ2 Δχ2 CFI SRMR

4 factor χ2 (71) = 119.07* .98 .05
3 factor χ2 (74) = 370.93* Δχ2 (3) = 251.86* .89 .08
2 factor χ2 (76) = 803.52* Δχ2 (5) = 684.45* .73 .19
1 factor χ2 (77) = 1,295.56* Δχ2 (6) = 1,176.50* .56 .18

Note. N = 253. 4 factor = all items loaded onto separate perceptions of
internal causality, stereotype activation, performance evaluation, and
leadership capability assessment factors. 3 factor = items for perceptions
of internal causality and stereotype activation were combined into one factor.
2 factor = items for perceptions of internal causality and stereotype
activation were combined into one factor; items for performance
evaluation and leadership capability assessment were combined into one
factor. CFI = comparative fit index. SRMR = standardized root mean
squared residual.
* p < .001.

RACE AND ANGER 149

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evaluations. For instance, there could be a “halo effect,” where there
is a tendency for a perceiver’s evaluations of the employee in one
domain (e.g., attractiveness) to influence ratings of the employee’s
qualities in other important domains (e.g., performance evalua-
tions), even when the domains are fundamentally unrelated
(Nisbett & Wilson, 1977).
Second, while we did provide participants with the employee’s

resume to increase psychological realism, the videos that we used to
manipulate anger were only 5 min long and the audio clips were less
than 1 min long. We know that assessments of current behavior are
largely determined by our experiences in the past (e.g., Hausknecht
et al., 2011) and black women who only demonstrate anger once are
lesslikely tosee their behaviorattributed tointernalcauses than black
women who demonstrate anger frequently (Kelley, 1967, 1973;
Robins et al., 1996). We encourage future research to examine the
angry black woman stereotype in real-world contexts, potentially
using experience-sampling methodology (Gabriel et al., 2019),
where employees could track their interactions with and reactions
to angry individuals (while also noting their gender and race). We
must also recognize that there would be some significant hurdles in
conducting sucha study. For example, it may require identificationof
racially and gender diverse dyads (see Joshi & Knight, 2015).
Finally, we examined non-physical as opposed to physical

expressions of anger. While we did so because the stereotype of
the angry black woman is associated with yelling and verbal
hostility (Walley-Jean, 2009) and physical aggression is less com-
mon at work, it is still unclear if our findings would emerge if the
employee engaged in acts of physical aggression, which would fall
more in line with stereotypes for black men (Welch, 2007). For
example, Bobby Knight, the former coach of the Indiana Hoosiers
basketball team, is famous for having engaged in physically aggres-
sive acts with team members. Perhaps Mr. Knight’s approach to
leadership would have been received differently had he been black
rather than white. Thus, future research could explore the stereotype
of the “angry black man” (Shapiro et al., 2009), who, according to
PCST, could be discriminated against for physical displays of anger
in the workplace (e.g., slamming a door shut in an act of frustration;
Grégoire et al., 2010).

Conclusion

Black employees have to overcome a myriad of hurdles at work
based on the color of their skin. For black women, our research
indicates that there may be additional considerations when

identifying biases at work. Anger is an emotion that employees
may display in a variety of contexts, often stemming from a
perceived injustice. Bolstered by cultural reinforcement, our studies
suggest that the angry black woman stereotype can affect how
individuals view displays of anger at work. The angry black woman
stereotype represents another hurdle for black women, and we urge
future research to expand upon our understanding of the effects of
perceptions on black women at work.

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Table 8
Sequential Moderated Mediation Analysis: Effects of Anger and Race Through Stereotype Activation
and Perceptions of Internal Causality Among Study 2 Variables

DV = Performance evaluation DV = Leadership capability

Coefficient CI Coefficient CI

Index of moderated mediation −.12* (.06) [−.29, −.04] −.17* (.08) [−.38, −.06]
Conditional indirect effects
White female −.00 (.03) [−.06, .06] −.00 (.04) [−.08, .08]
Black female −.12* (.05) [−.25, −.05] −.17** (.06) [−.32, −.07]

Note. N = 253. Coefficients presented are unstandardized estimates. SEs are in parentheses. CI = 95%
confidence interval.
* p < .05. ** p < .01.

150 MOTRO, EVANS, ELLIS, AND BENSON

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Received August 6, 2018
Revision received November 5, 2020

Accepted December 11, 2020 ▪

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  • Race and Reactions to Women’s Expressions of Anger at Work: Examining the Effects of the
    • Outline placeholder
      • PCST and the Angry Black Woman Stereotype
    • Study 1 Method
      • Participants and Procedure
      • Manipulations and Measures
        • Anger, Race, Gender
        • Manipulation Checks
        • Perceptions of Internal Causality
        • Performance Evaluation
        • Assessment of Leadership Capability
    • Study 1 Results
    • Study 1 Discussion
    • Study 2
    • Study 2 Method
      • Participants and Procedure
      • Manipulations and Measures5
        • Race
        • Anger
        • Manipulation Checks
        • Stereotype Activation
        • Perceptions of Internal Causality
        • Performance Evaluation
        • Assessment of Leadership Capability
    • Study 2 Results
    • General Discussion
      • Limitations and Directions for Future Research
    • Conclusion
    • References
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