Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Department of Psychology - Faculty of Health & Behavioural Sciences


This study set out to establish the type and nature of decision-making that managers displayed at work, and ways in which those decisions may be related to managers’ stereotyping of their colleagues. Ninety nine managers, drawn from six age-gender categories, made 594 employment decisions on six different age-gender categories of workplace colleagues. Managers’ employment decisions were found to vary according to differences in the managers’ own age-gender category with younger female managers more negative in their decision-making and younger male, older male and older female managers more positive in their decisions. The study made innovative use of a Personal Construct Theory-based (PCT) methodology (Kelly, 1955), to gain insights into managers’ decision-making. A process of measuring manager-colleague social proximity determined managers’ perceived differences from colleagues, and provided a means of comparing social distance measures with managers’ employment decisions. Research aimed to establish whether managers’ perceived social proximity with colleagues could vary according to differences in managers’ or colleagues’ age-gender categories, and if colleagues perceived more socially proximate would be assigned positive decisions by managers and those colleagues more distant, negative decisions. Study results confirmed managers’ perceived social proximity with colleagues varied according to differences in managers’ and colleagues’ age-gender categories and managers were positive in their decisions on socially proximate, younger colleagues and negative in their decision-making, on more socially distant older ones. Stereotype research in the study sought to determine levels of abstraction with which managers held information in their stereotypes, and uses to which managers put that information in making employment choices between colleagues. A PCT-based methodology helped identify managers’ workplace stereotypes and established relations between managers’ stereotypes and their employment decisions. The managers’ more meaningful interpretation of colleagues, expressed through superordinacy of constructs and commonality of usage of salient constructs, helped describe managers’ stereotyping processes and identified those stereotypes managers were most likely to act on in their decision-making. The managers’ stereotypes were found to hold both positive and negative prejudicial perceptions of the same person and to vary according to colleagues’ age-gender category. Stereotype research results showed positive superordinate constructs associated with managers’ stereotypes on younger age-gender categories as significantly related to managers’ positive decisions on younger male and female colleagues. On the other hand, negative superordinate constructs associated with stereotypes on older female colleagues were significantly related to managers’ negative decisions on the older female category. Positive stereotypes on younger colleagues, describing them as helpful and hardworking, were related to more positive employment decisions on younger males and females while negative stereotypes describing older females as traditional in approach and not being a good training investment were related to more negative decisions made on their category. Stereotype and decision research carried out in the study established the nature of managers’ discriminatory decision-making and relation to managers’ stereotyping of colleagues. Research results proved particularly useful in describing the nexus between managers’ decision-making and stereotyping processes. Such results make an important contribution to current stereotype and decision research and practice. The methodology employed in this study is capable of being readily applied and can provide improved transparency of stereotypes thus facilitating changes to stereotyping and discriminatory employment practices operating in managers’ workplaces.