I'M SORRY, DID I ROLL MY EYES OUT LOUD? Racial Harassment in 2023?
As I scrolled through my LinkedIn feed this morning, I did not see one, but two different posts about recent settlements from two different companies (one in healthcare and one construction management company) for racial slurs being made in workplaces.
I thought for a moment my cache got stuck in 1950 as I could not be reading this happening in 2023? To my huge disappointment, my cache is up to date and these two recent large settlements in fact, happened very recently.
I implore employers and leadership at workplaces to take the following steps to stomp out this type of behavior in workplaces:
1. LEAD Yes, it all goes back to Leadership. Leadership is responsible for setting the tone, creating zero tolerance, acting appropriately themselves and ensuring every employee matters to them in the workplace and demonstrating daily this fact to each and every employee.
2. POLICY Create, enforce and make easily available appropriate policies and procedures that prohibit discrimination, harassment and retaliation for reporting incidences. Post in visible places signs and reminders to all employees to call out this type of behavior in the workplace as it is prohibited and not tolerated in your workplace.
3. TRAIN Leadership, Supervisors and Employees all need to be trained routinely on these topics (and I recommend minimally on an annual basis if there have been ongoing issues) and also follow any appropriate state or city mandated training requirements.
4. RESPOND Every complaint needs to be addressed promptly and effectively, including hiring an outside investigator if there is a need. Employers need to take all complaints seriously, even ones you might think are ‘no big deal’ or ‘that employee did not mean that’ when you feel yourself wanting to brush it off. How an employer receives, processes and resolves these complaints will have an impact on the workplace in the future.
5. SAFE SPACE Don’t just call it a safe space. Workplaces are meant to be psychologically safe spaces where the fabric of the diversity in this country can show up each day and feel welcomed and encouraged to interact amongst one another even if they are different from each other. Creating formal DEI practices, taking a stand for the better on relevant topics and finding emotional connection with employees are all helpful. Things like promoting dialogue around everyone's diverse backgrounds builds trust and respect and can help combat any outliers who are thinking about creating trouble within your company.
Until this no longer exists in workplaces, I will continue to roll my eyes (and then some) in disgust when I hear these things still occur in work places in 2023. While employers cannot control what happens outside of their walls, they do have a responsibility inside their walls, beyond policy creation, to ensure that there is zero tolerance for hatred and racially motivated injustices in their work places. Constant monitoring and communication ensures that you as an employer are on top of it and have created a positive culture for everyone.