Racism in the workplace: What can managers do?
According to a recent survey by business psychologists Pearn Kandola, over half of UK employees have witnessed racism in the workplace but a shocking third of them said they failed to report it to their employer.
Less than a fifth reported the issue to HR and only 18 percent spoke to the victim, the survey found. Of the respondents who took no action, four in 10 said they did so out of fear of the consequences. A quarter said they did not consider the incident serious enough to report it, and a further 23 percent claimed that they were unsure of who to report it to.
What can managers do about workplace racism?
Based on their findings, Pearn Kandola made some recommendations for organisations.
1. Creating a safe climate
The survey’s findings show that people are fairly comfortable talking about racism. This suggests that the previous belief that we are all too afraid to discuss racism is not necessarily the case. However, it is important to note that those who have experienced racism are the least comfortable discussing it. We, as managers, therefore, need to promote discussion of racism with individuals who have experienced it first-hand. These are the people who have the richest insight into how an organisation’s culture may be fostering a racist environment. Organisations can make open discussion a habit through setting up regular minority discussion groups.
2. Developing our understanding of what racism in organisations means
One-third of those who didn’t report racism said it was because they were unsure of whether it was serious enough.
Managers should mention both subtle and explicit forms of racism in their training and their employee code of conduct. There is an educational role that needs to be undertaken, particularly with leaders and HR. Reporting incidents to a line manager and to HR were amongst the least effective actions to resolve problems. Additionally, unconscious bias training can be utilised to raise awareness of subtle racism.
3. Everyone has a role to play in workplace racism, including bystanders
Managers must work towards building a culture of inclusion, in which people can challenge one another on racism without fear. If an employee witnesses racism, they must feel they work in an environment which encourages them to share. Education can be highly effective to help everyone become better at being culturally inclusive.