You have always felt good about who you are until, one day, someone treats you differently because of who you are. The unhealthy practice of discrimination exists everywhere in the country and even in the workplace. Equality is a compulsion, a requirement, and an essential luxury that every human being should enjoy, regardless of where they are. The workplace should be no different. When a person feels hostility and unfavorable treatment, there is cause for concern for both employer and employee. Inequality within the workplace can be detrimental to the business’ operations and its success. So what practical ways can you promote equality within your workplace? Here are five methods you should consider.
1. Be aware of unconscious and indirect biases
Regardless of how knowledgeable you are on discrimination and bias, you may be surprised to realize you paid little attention to unconscious ones. As a self-evaluation measure, you should first admit that you have unconscious biases that need some work. Then, acknowledge how that affects your decisions, behaviors, and attitudes. In the workplace, these coping mechanisms enable you to identify such unhealthy traits in others. An unintentional bias occurs when a general policy is supposed to apply to every employee yet seems only to affect a particular group of employees. Unless there is an excellent reason to prove otherwise, you have no basis to proceed with continuing to enforce it. For example, you should never reject an otherwise qualified applicant based on their sexual orientation, race, age, or beliefs. Before the law, everybody is equal and is entitled to receive fair treatment.
2. Create a culture of inclusion
An inclusive culture involves everybody and demonstrates impartial leadership and processes at the workplace. Usually, this manifests in the communication style, language usage, and other diverse elements. When an employer appoints staff based on diversity, they create an environment of harmony. It goes further to eliminate seeds of mistrust and hatred. By championing an increased awareness on this subject matter, all employees become consciously aware of the deliberate attempt to build a healthy workplace network.
In several instances, an employer can enhance this through events and other initiatives geared towards a culture of inclusion. In other cases, an employer may be deliberate in pairing up employees of varied backgrounds to coordinate on a project. Fortunately, this enhances respect and appreciation of diversity. As an employer, you should open communication lines that encourage employees to speak up without fear of victimization.
3. Ask employees anonymous questions
Sometimes, your employees (regardless of structures put in place) may still fear opening up on issues of equality and discrimination at the workplace. When this happens, the best way to get them to voice their opinions would be to do so anonymously. It will be erroneous on your part to think you covered all areas, and there are no loopholes. Everybody in this world has a blind spot in the thinking process, and that is why you need to consult. How do you do this? First, you should make it known to all staff to express their opinions (albeit anonymously), either through a suggestion or opinion box or mailed anonymously. This is for the employee to feel comfortable and shielded from being ostracised for their claim. Some employees may be discriminated against due to injuries they are suffering from or may have some medical problems arising from the discrimination they experience. A practical way of ensuring equality in such a situation is to contact a legal nurse consultant to handle both the medical and legal components.
4. Be conscious about discriminatory policies
Have you ever worked in an office where natural hairstyles are forbidden and not a part of the dress code? Although many tend to ignore this fact, workplace dress codes tend to have the Caucasian taste in mind. Women may have to wear their hair straight, wavy, or slightly curled. Kinky hair, cornrows, or braids may be fiercely frowned upon and regarded as unprofessional in such settings. In another instance, it may be a Friday lunch with the Chief Executive of your company on another floor of the same building. If that structure has no elevator, how does an employee in a wheelchair get there? It is the same with religious garments worn by a section of your employees. Turbans, headscarves, and other face and head wraps are the norms for some religions. As an employer, you may be discriminating against them if the workplace policy enforces a strict wardrobe style.
5. Bridge the pay gap
As already mentioned in the introduction to this article, income or economic inequality is a significant issue in the United States. The existing pay gap among genders; and races is an open secret in this country. One would think a developed nation and a Superpower such as America will continue to grapple with pay discrepancies. Several economic experts believe it may take several decades for the gap to be bridged. What has accounted for this?
Perhaps, years of occupational segregation accounts for this. More males occupy higher paid jobs in more prominent companies, whereas females are more in lower-paying industries. In addition to this, fewer women are in senior positions in major companies. These have all contributed to discrepancies in pay structures among the genders. Until a few years ago, the white race occupied higher-paid jobs than other races, especially blacks. Unfortunately, that also widened the gap. As an employer, you have the liberty to begin the paradigm shift in this regard.
Promoting workplace equality is a process that requires deliberate attempts to make it happen. In addition to this, it will be unwise to leave it to chance and expert employees to work it out themselves. Remember that the exemplary lifestyle must emanate from leadership and upper management. Besides, it will require a constant review and evaluation of policies and practices—these issues of equality range from recruitment, career progression, and disciplinary cases to employee turnover. The list is endless, and that explains the need to educate yourself in that regard continually.