Recently, I spoke with a friend who is experiencing diabolical treatment at work due to being pregnant. Without getting into the nitty-gritty, her boss has managed her unfairly since the start of the pandemic. Unfortunately, my friend is not alone. Discrimination at work is a common occurrence, although it often happens covertly.
Consider this 2015 survey, which proves that one in five people in Canada faces bias in the workplace because of their race, religious beliefs, age or other factors. Depending on where you live, those numbers may be significantly higher.
Given our current world state, I wouldn’t be surprised if job-related discrimination is on the rise. Even before COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement, I know of many people – especially from racialized backgrounds – who experienced violence, harassment, and unsafe conditions. From bullying management, toxic environments, and unethical practices, the list goes on about the abuse of employees happening behind business walls.
Now, if you are also in such a position, I offer six tips below that might be of help:
Document, document, document: I cannot stress enough how important it is to keep a record of every instance of unfair treatment. Having documentation is so crucial if you need to make a complaint to your boss or take things further. As a suggestion, purchase a small notebook specifically for work. Make it a habit to write down the events of your day, even on good days.
Go to HR: Yes, that human resources manager may not be on your side (the reality is that they are paid to protect the interests of the company). Nevertheless, you must speak with them to ensure that your complaint is heard, written up, and filed appropriately. Unless you inform your workplace about what is going on, there is absolutely no opportunity for things to change. While they may stay the same (they often do), be sure to do your part. Therefore, I caution you to avoid using only verbal communication. Instead, put everything in writing via email so that events are time-stamped in a paper trail.
Review the company’s policies: Most businesses usually have strategies to address discrimination in the workplace. Please read it in detail and get a copy for yourself. When employers put stuff in writing, they acknowledge that behaviours contrary to their policies are not tolerated (at least they shouldn’t be). As a result, if someone’s discriminatory ways continue at work without proper investigation and consequences, you are in a position to hold the employer accountable.
Speak to a trusted family member, friend or colleague: Intolerance can be emotionally draining. After all, no one goes to work to be mistreated. So, as you address the situation, lean on people that you can trust. But if you choose to discuss with someone at work, be sure that they will not go blabbing. Not only does the gossip mill start rolling, but it puts you in jeopardy, especially if the company has a policy on confidentiality.
Go higher: Sometimes, your complaint will fall on deaf ears, or the matter will be turned around onto you. Hence, you have the option of taking action. Remember, in most countries, there are prohibited grounds of discrimination in employment. Be sure to know what they are. Nonetheless, a course of action might include suing your employer, getting a mediator, or enlisting the help of another third party. Whatever is decided, make sure that it is the best scenario for you.
Umm, QUIT: Honestly, you are trying to live your best life. Dealing with ignorant people at work is not what you want to be doing. Any company that does not take a clear, unequivocal stance against discrimination – in all its forms – is not the right place for you. Paying bills and keeping food on the table is a priority, but so is your mental and emotional health. Thus, look for some new opportunities because the right work environment is waiting for you to get there.
To that end, we all want to work in a place that is inclusive and respectful. Unfortunately, that does not always happen. Still, there are many good ones out there. As Fritjof Capra says, “in the end, the aggressors always destroy themselves, making way for others who know how to cooperate and get along. Life is much less a competitive struggle for survival than a triumph of cooperation and creativity.”