What does racism at work actually means?

Racism at work is an act where an individual is treated differently on the basis of his/her skin color, language, customs, culture, etc. It includes varied behaviors shown by peers/colleagues like making derogatory comments on someone’s color, being aggressive to a colleague of different religion, overlooking peers based on racial grounds, etc. All these behaviors come under racial discrimination in the workplace.

Racial discrimination affects the psychological well-being of an individual which in turn leads to lower productivity, less job satisfaction, lack of self-confidence, etc.

The Law Against Discrimination

According to the Removal of Racial Discrimination Act, 1949, it’s illegal to discriminate against people on the basis of race, color, language, customs, etc.

Employers can’t discriminate among their employees on racial grounds. Each employee should be provided with equal opportunities at the workplace.

Ill Effects of Racial Discrimination

It badly affects the self-confidence of individuals and leads to poor psychological well-being. Employees feel excluded from the workplace if they are being discriminated which in turn reduces their productivity. There is also a considerable amount of evidence that shows that racism leads to depression and difficulty in coping and adapting to different situations. All this lowers the overall job satisfaction of employees. (Source: The Impact of Racism on Mental Health, 2018)

Ways to Combat Racism at Work

1) At the Organizational level

The Hiring Policy should be Bias-Free

The job description should be neutral worded where there should be no emphasis on someone’s color, custom, language, etc. Employers should hire culturally diverse people so that everyone can be aware of different races in the country. It creates a culture of innovation and improves employee performance which leads to the growth of the organization. Diverse and inclusive workplaces have a pool of talented employees and have better retention rates.

Have a Strict Anti-Discriminatory Policy at the Workplace

The workplace should have a clear and strict anti-discriminatory policy where the behaviors which are not encouraged should be clearly mentioned. In case of exhibiting any discriminatory behavior, sanctions should be mentioned like termination, demotion, etc.

The employer also should make it a point to check employees’ behavior in a timely manner and take action against discriminatory behavior.

Anti-Discriminatory Training should be Conducted

Training will help employees to understand different behaviors which are considered discriminatory and how these behaviors affect an individual’s work and psychological health. Through training, they can become aware of different cultures and learn new ways to accept culturally different people. Training can help in gaining an awareness of those biases and diversity and devise strategies to deal with them.

2) At Team Level

Peer/Colleagues should Stand for the Sufferer

Colleagues should support the sufferer and raise their voices against discrimination. Peer support will boost the confidence of the sufferer and help him/her deal with the situation in an effective manner.

3) At Individual Level

The employee who has faced discrimination must speak about it to the management so that corrective action can be provided and the frequency of occurrence of discriminatory behavior can be reduced.

These are some of the ways that can be adopted to make the workplace racially discrimination-free. It’s the responsibility of each employee and employer to make the workplace inclusive for the better well-being of everyone at the workplace.

Contact us if you are interested in a diversity and inclusion program that is tailored to the needs of your organization or team.