The paradox of workplace racism.
As organizations look forward to reaping benefits from a community-driven by a diverse and inclusive workforce, the prevailing force of racism undermines all efforts, creating challenges that human resource professionals face daily.
Let’s hear what these people say.
Binna Kandola, a British business psychologist and the author of Racism at Work: The Danger of Indifference says,
“Unless we are prepared to have a discussion about the impact of stereotypes and how they affect decisions that are made within organizations, we are not going to make any more progress toward eradicating racism.”
Mike Veny, a mental health speaker says,
“Company leaders have a tremendous opportunity right now to build real trust with people of color by being intentional about the conversations happening in the workplace.”
At the workplace, most of the racism starts through microaggressions. These microaggressions can be unintentional acts of discrimination against a person or member of a group, etc. If beckoned further, this might even take the form of stereotyping.
What would you have done as an HR leader?
If microaggression is decreased there are slight chances that racism will eventually reduce. Such comments and assumptions are considered to come from people of a country that are not well educated. As an HR leader, such issues must get addressed. This is when people can come to a single place of understanding.
The same must also be followed while navigating racism. Long-lasting efforts can only happen if we all start bringing our focus on empathizing with people who have different perspectives as compared to us. It is going to be challenging to understand other people’s perspectives but the best thing we can do right now is to show empathy to such a group of people. By doing this we’re already helping build a better place to connect with other communities.
Core key points to keep in mind:
- Whatever the company says must be backed by action and not just by words. Also, the initiative should not be around meeting the status quo or avoid being a victim of the cancel culture – it should be focused more toward cultivating a diverse and inclusive workplace.
- Training around diversity and inclusion should be an ongoing process within organizations. This will further lead to boosting productivity and gain more benefits. Using this angle might be an added advantage especially when you’re seeking help or making conversations with the C-suite executives explaining about your initiative.
- Asking the right questions at the right time could help. Listing down a few examples:
- How do you see things happening around you in the organization? Any specific incident I may have missed?
- What are the things you feel we need to be doing that we’re not doing right now?
- Help me understand how you’re being perceived by the leaders in the company?
- People of different color and race are angry and scared at the same time. These are emotions that get difficult to fathom and communicate every day. However, this is where such issues take root – this happens when people are not heard or when they feel there’s a lack of control with whatever they’re currently facing.
Channeling the right message
In the present day, every member needs to know and hear about the company’s principles and what they represent. As an HR professional and leader, you have to let the world out there know that you’re against racism and you don’t support it.
Circulate policies across the company so that employees know what strict actions and steps you’re willing to take against those showing racial discrimination. Let your actions speak louder than words. Go public. Ensure you don’t get caught doing just the opposite of what you preach.
It is going to be a challenging journey to make things right. No matter how perfectly your message goes out to the public, you will still find people who will think that you’re still not doing enough. It is never going to be right. But we need to make sure we empathize with the perspective of other’s thoughts.
Equality, diversity, and inclusion play an important role in both promoting the workplace culture and attempting to achieve fairness within the work environment.
Although most people have been socialized around beliefs and different perceptions, it is not going to be easy for leaders to unpack all these within a night’s time. Racism at the workplace very much persists even in the present day, thus contributing to the organization in unorganized ways. Admitting to something you already know and not doing anything about it is the toughest part.
Standing up and talking to people about racism is the first and foremost thing every educator and leader out there needs to do. Accepting others’ perspectives and confronting racist acts is when the society will realize what they’ve been doing is wrong.
This is going to be difficult and challenging but is the only way to kill the roots of racial discrimination.
As said by then-Senator Barrack Obama in 2008, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”