Today, a staggering 75% of employees have been bullied in the workplace. This is a problem in America, one that often leads to a bias and, in too many instances, outright discrimination. While the most severe cases are the ones causing headlines, there are many more that quietly ruin corporate cultures, destroy employee engagement, and curtail productivity. However, the proper education and training can help prevent workplace discrimination in any business.
There are many forms of bias and discrimination in today’s corporate environments. With 42% of women having experienced gender discrimination at work, unfair treatment based on sex is one of the most prominent. Racism continues to be an issue as well, along with discrimination based on one’s country of birth, culture, or religion. A bias can be formed over any difference one has with another, and when that bias is acted upon, it constitutes discrimination. Consider the issue of age discrimination, which is increasing as workforces evolve. By 2050 the number of individuals in the labor force who are 65 or older will have grown by 75%. At the same time, Generation Z is coming of age and entering the workforce in droves. Unfortunately, it’s all too common for a hiring manager to look at the resume of a 65-year-old and discount it because they assume that candidate will retire soon. At the same time, that hiring manager may not fully consider a 24-year-old for a position or promotion because they assume that candidate wouldn’t have enough experience. Organizations must take the steps to end this and all forms of bias-turned-discrimination.
All too often, employees do not even realize they are exhibiting a bias or are discriminating against another. What may seem like harmless joking to one individual may not be perceived that way by others. When a promotion is handed down, a manager may neglect to consider a certain candidate based on a subconscious bias. In other words, even if an employee doesn’t intentionally discriminate against another, the mere perception of that possibility can be just as damaging. In order to prevent all forms of workplace discrimination, it’s necessary to educate workforces through proper training procedures. All employees must understand what constitutes a bias, bullying, and discrimination, as well as how to stop any behaviors from falling into those categories. To that end, managers must be trained separately as they will have more responsibility for identifying negative behaviors before they culminate into a problem. Additionally, all staff should receive soft skills training so they can learn to communicate more appropriately and become conscious of their words and actions.
Ideally, training will not just teach employees how to act in order to prevent bias and discrimination, but should also create an environment that accepts and actively celebrates others’ beliefs, backgrounds, and differences. Training can be a spark for change in creating a healthier culture as employees discover they are more similar than they are different. Plus, a diverse workforce is an asset, producing diverse solutions and products that consider various viewpoints and leave no stone unturned. The key to building a strong training program and culture is to recognize that typical anti-discrimination or anti-bullying initiatives are focused solely on what not to do. While that’s a good start, take culture to the next level by also discussing the ways that employees desire to be treated in the workplace. Encourage positive actions and create opportunities for employees to get to know each other better. As a result, instead of an employee simply aspiring to not break a rule, they will be less of a neutral bystander and more of a culture ambassador, going out of their way to lift up others through positivity.
Of course, no one sets out to hire bullies or create a discriminatory environment. The issue is that an alarmingly few employers do enough to prevent workplace discrimination. It can be difficult to prioritize this initiative above other business objectives, but it’s something that must be done at regular intervals. Doing so sends a clear message that changes behaviors, protects employees, and ultimately makes a business better.