Journal of Business and Psychology

, Volume 29, Issue 3, pp 427–442 | Cite as

Proactive Responding to Anticipated Discrimination Based on Chronic Illness: Double-Edged Sword?

  • Alyssa K. McGonagle
  • Lydia E. Hamblin



Proactive strategies for avoiding stigmatization may prevent work-related discrimination (Singletary and Hebl J Appl Psychol 94:797–805, 2009), yet these strategies may also cause strain in the stigmatized. We tested a model in which previous workplace discrimination experiences and anticipated future workplace discrimination related to proactive responses (compensatory behaviors and concealing behaviors), which, in turn, related to job tension.


Survey data were obtained from 332 workers with chronic illnesses. Structural equation modeling was used to test the proposed relationships.


Perceived previous discrimination directly related to anticipated future discrimination and indirectly related to compensatory and concealing behaviors. Anticipated discrimination directly related to compensatory and concealing behaviors, and indirectly related to job tension through compensatory behaviors. Compensatory behaviors were, but concealing behaviors were not, related to job tension.


Workers with chronic illness should be educated on ways to mitigate the negative effects of compensatory behaviors, including ensuring adequate opportunities to replenish resources. Organizations should provide assistance to these workers through Employee Assistance Programs or other types of job counseling. Organization leaders and supervisors have a responsibility to build an environment of acceptance for those with chronic illness in order to reduce potential discrimination.


While proactive strategies are effective in reducing negative outcomes of stigmatization, little research has explored their potential downsides. We highlight the “double-edged sword” nature of compensatory behaviors. In addition, while a large proportion of U.S. workers are managing chronic illness, this population is understudied.


Chronic illness Compensatory behaviors Discrimination Proactive coping Stigma 


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyWayne State UniversityDetroitUSA

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