Race and Discrimination in the Workplace

The workplace, whether it be an office or industrial setting, is a microcosm of our society.

We know that racism and discrimination based on gender, age, and religion exist in our society.

The question is, how do we deal with these practices in the workplace?

First, discrimination based on race, gender, age, or religion is illegal.  The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and subsequent Supreme Court rulings are very clear on this.  Companies are obligated to obey the law, but discrimination is so pervasive that it is often ignored until an incident occurs. And when an incident does occur, it is not always handled in a way that respects those who are discriminated against.

In our last blog, we discussed the Golden Rule of Management, which is based on faith and trust in people and respect for them. Any kind of discrimination against persons because they belong to a certain grouping of people is disrespectful, contradicting the Golden Rule of Management. The challenge for management is how to prevent incidents from happening, and, if they do happen, how to deal with them.

In the past, long before there were workplace policies in place to cover complaints such as claims of racism or discrimination, the atmosphere in some workplaces was filled with racist or discriminatory activities, and management paid little attention to them.  Now, years later, our society is rife with all kinds of complaints about discrimination.  It is our contention that in a workplace where the culture is healthy and employee-centered, there will be zero tolerance for racism and discrimination--and fewer incidents to report. Unlike news heard from other GM divisions during Don Rust’s tenure as plant manager at the Tonawanda Engine Plant, there were no reported incidents of racism or discrimination. To the contrary, there were many acts of kindness and support for those who were most vulnerable to this kind of negative behavior.  While not empirical proof, we believe that the transformed culture at the plant after Don arrived had a lot to do with the respect shown for all employees, regardless of their skin color, religion, gender, or age.

The Golden Rule of Management is a starting point for how to deal with workplace discrimination. Any form of discrimination is disruptive and dysfunctional, leading to behaviors that not only disrespect people but diminish an organization’s energy and focus needed to stay productive and competitive. Companies must take steps to minimize discrimination’s impact on their business. 

Here are three simple steps that a company should take to minimize the negative impact of discrimination:

·      Create an absolutely clear company policy that there is no place or reason for racial or discriminatory practices in the workplace. The policy must also be clear that there will be zero tolerance for any type of discrimination. If a violation of this policy does occur, it must be acted upon swiftly to avoid any perception that such behavior is in any way acceptable or condoned by management. 

·      We believe that our Golden Rule of Management, where all employees are treated with faith, trust, and respect, contributes in a major way to the elimination of discriminatory practices. Our position is that a healthy culture will minimize any activity that could be offensive or show disrespect to others.

·      Any person who violates company policy with respect to discriminatory practices will be eliminated from employment. There is simply no place for such individuals in a healthy organizational culture.