The recent nationwide protests against racial inequality following the slaying of George Floyd while in police custody have spread across the globe, shining a light on race relations in the U.S. and abroad. Racism, unfortunately, is rampant in many areas of society…and the workplace is no exception. There are steps your organization can take to help eliminate racial disparity and foster a more inclusive atmosphere.
It Begins with Empathy and Respect
It’s imperative that organizations not shy away from conversations about delicate topics such as racism with their employees. The first step is to demonstrate empathy and respect by acknowledging that issues exist—at least in society at large, if not necessarily within the confines of the office (though few places are completely immune). Address your staff and let them know you understand the pain and discomfort they are likely experiencing during this difficult time. It’s important not just to talk—make sure you listen, too! That will demonstrate you are willing to learn and focus your attention on resolving any problems that exist. There will always be people who are uncomfortable having these discussions and others who might perceive them as a threat to the established hierarchy; understanding this will help in your effort to find a solution.
Finding common ground is an essential step. A good place to start is by discovering values everybody shares within the organization; they might be as universal as freedom of personal liberties or the pursuit of happiness.
Promoting inclusion and diversity are of utmost importance—and too often lacking in corporate America. Put effort into creating teams that incorporate a wide cross-section of people. This was the whole point of affirmative action, but unfortunately, many people view that negatively. It’s important to hire the best person for the job, but there are often deeply ingrained attitudes that only one person is truly qualified for a specific position. This simply isn’t true! For any job, there will always be plenty of qualified candidates able to perform the work exceptionally. Put some thought into this before you even begin the recruitment process, and you’ll be laying the groundwork for a more inclusive and diverse workplace.
And if you think you know how to define “diversity,” keep in mind that what constitutes that term has expanded significantly. The focus of equality in the workplace has largely centered on women, but that has often come at the expense of blacks. It is your corporate responsibility to address racism and make an effort to prevent it through your hiring and promotion practices and providing opportunities for people of color to acquire the skills needed for success. The current social climate has demonstrated the sins in standing idly by and not taking action to prevent discrimination.
By making a concerted effort to promote inclusion and diversity in your workplace, you are sending a strong message about your company’s values…one that will not go unnoticed.