Handling Racism in the Workplace

Over recent years, the issue of race and prejudice has occupied countless news reports and headlines from the United States and around the world.  Given the political landscape, the practice of racial discrimination is a growing concern in the workplace, and a sensitive subject to discuss.

As an employer, it is important to immediately address and correct even the slightest suggestion of racism to promote a workplace of equality, diversity and inclusion.

Here are some tips to consider when dealing with racism in the workplace:

  • Establish a clear, definite policy on racism in the workplace. It is almost common sense that no organization should tolerate racism, but some people may still be confused as to what racism entails. Explain to your employees that racial discrimination goes beyond obvious examples of name-calling and unintentional jokes.  What may be funny to someone could be quite insulting and offensive to others.
  • Communicate with your employees about your policy. Holding team-building sessions gives your employees a chance to learn about your anti-discrimination policy. You should emphasize the importance of reporting racist incidents whenever and wherever they occur by starting investigations as soon as possible. 
  • Develop a progressive system to correct any instances of racism.  Implement clear consequences for acts of racism in the workplace and make them applicable to ALL employees.
  • Reinforce your policy by creating a safe space for employees. You can begin with training sessions that remind and teach employees how to avoid discrimination and racism. This can help your employees feel safe and protected when reporting any racist incident. Instruct your managers to keep an eye out to enforce your policy. Understand that like any other victim of abuse, it may be difficult for some to report experiences with racism.

Racial discrimination is not only unethical but can also be harmful to your organization employees and culture. There is no doubt that a diverse workplace contributes to a positive, supportive network of employees, which only strengthens the productivity and retention within your business.

There are many educational programs available for businesses to freshen up their employees knowledge on the topic.  MBL Benefit’s clients have access to ThinkHR’s comprehensive learning course catalog which includes a section on diversity in the workplace.