DEALING WITH RACIAL DISCRIMINATION IN THE WORKPLACE, STORIES AND ADVICE.
I have written a template to help those who need assistance in creating a grievance letter to send to their relevant employer. Click the link below.
RACIAL DISCRIMINATION IS THE UNJUST OR PREJUDICIAL TREATMENT AGAINST SOMEONE BASED ON THEIR SKIN COLOUR, RACE, OR ETHNIC ORIGIN. THIS WAS MADE ILLEGAL IN THE UK 1965.
THE SAME CONSEQUENCES THAT ARE APPLIED IF PROFITS ARE NOT REACHED, NEED TO ALSO BE ENFORCED IF DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION GOALS ARE NOT REACHED BY EMPLOYERS.
This way, respectful behaviour can be enforced both outside and inside of the workplace. Zero tolerance towards racism needs to be more than words on a mission statement and diversity and inclusion needs to be more than reaching a quota.
"WE NO LONGER HAVE AN APPETITE FOR WARM WORDS... BUT INSTEAD FIRM ACTIONS."
- CIPD Race inclusion Reports
This quote relates and reminded me of a Ted Talk by Janet Stoval.
She said the key to tackling Diversity and Inclusion in different scenarios is through Recognising & Implementing these 3 simple steps below:
- REAL PROBLEMS
- REAL NUMBERS
- REAL CONSEQUENCES
'COMPANIES WHO FOCUS THE MOST ON RACIAL AND ETHNIC DIVERSITY ARE 36% MORE LIKELY TO HAVE FINANCIAL RETURNS THAT ARE ABOVE AVERAGE FOR THEIR INDUSTRY.'
- Mckinsey report, 2020 'How inclusion matters'
As positive as this is, the financial benefit always seems to find itself to be the main advertisement for diversity and inclusion.
When firms have financial benefits at the forefront of creating a diverse workforce, this can result in slow, half-hearted and shallow outcomes on diversity and inclusion.
Non-financial incentives help firms to strive for a more empathetic culture change both inside and outside the workplace.
Hopefully strategies like this can inspire firms to use diversity and inclusion as part of their their corporate social responsibility, to contribute to the improvement of wider society as well as their internal community.
... LETS TAKE THIS BACK TO JANET STOVALS' 3 PATHS TO DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION:
So below I will outline a few stories of Racial discrimination in different workplace settings. These are all True stories.
THE 'GHETTO' HOODIE ON CCTV
Ryan, Essex, 2021
"My shift was over and I was waiting for one of my colleagues to come outside. Two managers were on shift at this time. Manager 1, who was a white woman and Manager 2 who was an asian man. Manager 1 followed me outside of the workplace to ask me. 'Why have you not gone home yet', at this point I let her know that I was waiting for a fellow colleague.
She responds, 'Zip up your hoodie because your uniform is being seen' then continues with 'Manager 2 and I can see you on the CCTV and you're looking Ghetto.'
The whole conversation left me so confused because I was just standing there, on my phone. With a hoodie on. Waiting for my colleague. Something that all of us have done before and is far from out of the ordinary."
In CIPD's Race and inclusion report, they found that: 22% of the BAME group respondents said that their career progression has failed to meet their expectations because they have experienced discrimination compared with 15% of the white British ethnicity respondents.
'IT MADE ME FEEL LIKE I WAS LESS OF A PERSON'
"I have never been called ghetto by anyone in my life. I was mad.'
I felt like I was about to have a mental breakdown.
- I was really angry
- It didn't make me feel good
- It made me feel like I was less of a person
But I could not react, out of fear of proving her right. So I said nothing and walked away.
I thought to myself:
'I am just going to try to avoid them... I'll will act like they do not exist"
After experiencing discrimination at work, every person is left with three future scenarios:
1. To endure the bullying in order to try and progress.
2. Endure the bullying and never progress.
It is almost as if it is the victims responsibility to decide whether they should stay and continue to take the abuse or decide to leave and basically start from scratch.
This made me think about how we can use what I call a 'figures checklist' to discover whether a company has a toxic environment for certain employees:
We can first look at the amount of staff that have reported racial discrimination. Then look at figures of staff retention for employees of colour in these same companies. Lastly we need to look at the amount of supervisors, managers and directors the company has that are people of colour.
If all these figures show up to be disappointing, then we know exactly what type of work environment that particular company represents.
Unfortunately, finding these type of figures may not be realistic for every company.
COMPANIES THAT LACK SAFE SPACES FOR CASUALTIES TO SPEAK UP ON ISSUES ABOUT RACIAL DISCRIMINATION, WITHOUT A FEAR OF LOSING THEIR JOB, RISKS A CULTURE AMONGST THEIR STAFF WHERE RACE ISN'T ISSUE WORTH SPEAKING UP ABOUT.
SOME MAY DECIDE TO TRY TO FORGET ABOUT THE SITUATION AND NEVER SPEAK ABOUT IT AGAIN; WHICH COULD RESULT IN EITHER INCREASED TENSION IN THE WORKPLACE... OR EVEN WORSE, CONTINUED DISCRIMINATION. SOME MAY JUST DECIDE TO JUST RESIGN.
This bring us to the next section of Jane Stovals 3 steps to diversity & inclusion:
Ignorant people at work & perpetrators of racial discrimination need real consequences. They need education and training. Respectful behaviour needs to be practised both outside and inside of the workplace. Zero tolerance towards racism needs to be more than words on a mission statement and diversity and inclusion needs to be more than reaching a quota. & We need REAL repercussions if these goals are not met by employers.
"DIVERSITY IS A NUMBERS GAME, INCLUSION IS ABOUT IMPACT, COMPANIES CAN MANDATE DIVERSITY... BUT THEY HAVE TO CULTIVATE INCLUSION"- JANE STOVALL
Companies can reach targets for diversity, but there needs to be harsher & realer consequences for those who create a toxic work environment for those of a certain race or ethnicity, as this blocks the impact of inclusion...
THE DISEASED BELIEF THAT SPEAKING UP ON RACE ISSUES IS BEING 'OVER-SENSITIVE'
- Encouraging the notion that not speaking up on serious race issues protects career progression.
Some BAME people who hold professional positions in white dominated industries could be more fearful to speak on race and discrimination. This could be to avoid creating an uncomfortable working environment for themselves. This is due to the negative connotation that follows people who speak up on race, such as 'sensitive' or 'controversial'. Which could result in a loss of their job.
This may sound crazy.. But it's real life.
The problem with some of todays leaders is the inability to affectively talk about race, because there is always this fear of saying the wrong thing, They tend to shy away from the actual issues instead of standing up for what they believe is right.
When some leaders remain Stagnant in issues surrounding race. This does nothing but create a culture of fear surrounding discussions to do with race, inclusion, diversity and discrimination within the workplace.
This inevitably creates an uncomfortable working environment in the longterm for people of colour.
... "IT SEEMS AS THOUGH THE ONLY WAY THAT BUSINESSES ARE GOING TO GET SINGLE-MINDED ABOUT DIVERSITY IS IF IT HAS A PROBLEM THAT IS URGENT AND RELATIVE TO SOMEBODY OTHER THAN PEOPLE OF COLOUR"
Because in this day & age, victims of racial discrimination at work have to make a decision on whether to leave, continue to take the abuse, or avoid the perpetrator(s). When it isn't their burden to carry in the first place.
Unfortunately this is the common case surrounding most issues revolved around racism and racial discrimination as you can see in the stories weaved into to this spread.
"IT'S NOT OKAY FOR YOU TO BE OVERLY CRITICAL TO ME, BUT NOT TO MY WHITE COLLEAGUES”
Anonymous, London, 2018
"Every meeting I entered, my white colleagues would comment on my hair, the mother of all microaggressions:
'Oh I see you've changed it again, We never know what we’re going to get with you!”
Or there would always be different versions of a white colleague being surprised that I worked on their team. For example:
“I thought you were working in operations because most of you work in operations”,
One time I responded and asked what they meant by that and they responded “Oh... you know”
Like, sorry? I don't know, you're going to have to clarify exactly what you mean."
"I worked for a government agency and there was a senior manager who displayed behaviours that came across as discriminatory. There were so many examples I could give but I will explain the most vivid example I can remember.
I was working in Social media, E-commerce & PR and my colleague and I had to give regular presentations to this same senior manager.
My colleague would never take charge of the updates due to his constant lack of preparation, so I would always end up in the leading position for updating this team.
So I would present my work, saying things like:
'This resource is going to be published on this date'
'These are the dates of the upcoming campaign'
'This is what will be posted on the website'
This was when the senior manager would indulge in hostile and blunt responses wrapped in an aggressive tone:
'Why are you saying this'
'What is this'
'What does this mean'
My colleague (who was the same level as me) would then present his part, which was always small sentences filled with under researched information spoon fed from company emails & the internet.
Yet the senior manager never asked him any questions. He never asked him for more information or questioned why he lacked the information in the first place...
...Both colleagues were white males'
"...The manner in which questions were being asked, were not professional, respectful or showed any remote intention for solutions, but instead were directed to only one person, which was me, in a line of fire, at every single meeting.
When a pattern began emerging, I raised the issue with my line manager. I explained to him that I did not want to be a part of the update meetings because how uncomfortable the senior manager made me feel, while my colleague is was sat there basically being overlooked, even though he was clearly underperforming."
My line manager, who was a white male decided to join me into the next meeting. When he was presenting my notes, the attitudes from the senior manager completely changed from aggressive and hostile to:
“Thank you for the updates”
“That was really insightful”
My jaw. Dropped. This confirmed to me that this team's senior manager knew that how he was speaking to me was wrong. My line manager also realised this and we agreed that I would not have to continue to attend the meetings.
“THAT WAS NOT A PROJECT UPDATE, THAT WAS A CRUCIFIXION”
"However, my Senior manager, who was a black female, wanted me to continue. She decided to come with me to the next meeting and present my notes instead.
This is when I witness him over criticise and patronise her even worse than I was. A very senior manager… who was treated worse than I was.
But I was glad that my other team members could see this contrast, otherwise I would have been branded as ‘sensitive’
“I never understood why my work gets so much scrutiny… I am happy to present my work to senior managers, but it's not okay for you to be overly critical to me, but not to my white counterparts”
After the meeting my Senior manager was not happy at all. She said “That was not a project update, that was a crucifixion” and she completely understood how I felt at that moment.
As she was the same level as the discriminatory senior manager, she spoke to him and told him that he must not treat her team members this way. Especially as this is collaborative work for the benefit of his team.
But guess what he responded with?..."
..." 'OH NO, YOU ARE BEING TOO SENSITIVE'
and this was without her mentioning how our race played a factor.
She responded, “Don't you dare, it is not okay undermine the expertise of your colleagues”
After this encounter it was obvious that I was the initial complainant, and word of this went back to all the senior managers at the company, some began to turn against me, purely based on the fact that I complained about how I was being treated."
"SENIOR STAFF BEGAN BOMBARDING ME WITH RUDE EMAILS... WHILE MY WHITE COLLEAGUE DID NOT RECIEVE ANY"
"This converted to how they would email me responses to my work. For example:
“Sarah why have you not sent this”.
“Sarah was supposed to send this, this is not acceptable, you cannot expect to operate like this in a professional environment.” - No dear and No regards, just pure unnecessary rudeness, with no solutions.
When I spoke to my white male colleague (who was on the same level & team as me), about his opinions on them. He asked me “Why do you get those emails, I don’t even get them”
Because funnily enough. He was not receiving any emails at all!
The bullying got so bad that they had to move me, and I could no longer work as the commerce manager, I ended up being moved multiple times, as all the senior managers now had a negative view towards me.
Even though at this point I had not reported anything that happened. This was the way I was being treated. They expected me to remain comfortable coming to work for the only conversation to be:
'Do you only date black men, we don't know what your type is?’
When I recognised and reported this behavior, I was essentially made the company pinata.
“YOU ALMOST HAVE TO TAKE YOURSELF OUT OF THE SITUATION FOR YOUR OWN SANITY”
"When I finally became overwhelmed and decided to discontinue with coming to meetings, and reported the issue to my manager in an official capacity."
I asked anonymous: After speaking to managers, did anything happen after… in terms of disciplinary actions to those who were discriminatory towards you?
"No nothing happened, and they were only spoken to.
And after the formal complaint senior managers begun to treat me even worse
You almost have to take yourself out of the situation for your own sanity”
"HE WOULD PROCEED TO CALL ME "SISTA" EVERY TIME I WALKED PASSED HIM."
Trina, London, 2020
This was actually the reason I left my last job. I used to wear a big afro to work. There was this white male at work who would constantly harass me. It was subtle in the beginning. At first he would touch my hair without permission. Then he would proceed to ask if it was real. Then he would proceed to call me "sista" every time I walked passed him. On the second day of him seeing me, he sat next to me and started staring and analysing my skin. He would say "wow, you guys have amazing, gorgeous skin". Although that may not come across as racism to some I was highly uncomfortable as I am not an animal at the zoo for him to do all of that."