As a country, we’ve come a long way to minimizing or ending discrimination. However, we don’t even need to take a look around to see that our work here is not done.
As a supervisor or as an employee, you are powerful. At work, your treatment of others sends a clear message. It’s tough to know where to start, so here are six things you can do to stop workplace discrimination.
Look in the Mirror
Recently, researchers sent 19,000 emails to public service employees. Half were sent from writers given typically African-American names while the others were typically white. Regrettably, emails from people like “John Smith” received more replies — and more polite ones.
It’s unlikely those employees knew they were being racist. It’s clear, however, there was a pattern. Ultimately, the first step to ending discrimination at work begins with a look in the mirror. Ask tough questions. Armed with the courage to face facts, anyone can improve.
Know the Laws
As an employer, it pays to know the law — not just Title VII, but laws at the state and local levels. Do you offer lactation breaks to breastfeeding employees? Can a trans employee use their bathroom of choice? Is an adoptive dad entitled to leave? You can help end discrimination by honoring rights and letting others know you respect them.
One effective method to stop discrimination at work is to take a stand. Yes, it’s uncomfortable to speak up and report discrimination to a supervisor. However, too many people mistake silence for agreement. Speak up for yourself — and for others. You can be that powerful voice that says, “Not here.”
As a supervisor, it’s so important to listen. If an employee expresses concerns about discrimination, take them seriously. Document statements and use an independent investigator to prevent bias. Actively prevent retaliation, and most of all, be willing to hear people fairly and openly. You can help your employees know you have their back.
What do women say about workplace discrimination? What issues face people of color? Older employees? LGBTQ workers? We have the power to find out: the Internet provides an incredible opportunity to “overhear” conversations lots of us need to listen to. The personal stories of actual people have the power to change our minds that cold data doesn’t. You just have to hear them.
When an employer offers training about discriminatory practices or even less-obvious microaggressions, we bring unconscious bias (like responding more politely in an email) out into the open. Good training allows employees to focus on (previously) unexamined practices and make changes for the better. You can be that teacher.