Racism, Injustice, Discrimination: How to Create a Policy to Tackle These Issues in the Workplace

Racism and discrimination in the workplace are critical issues. Here are 6 ways to promote anti-racism and improve your work environment.

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Team of corporate professionals having casual discussion at cafe table. Multi-ethnic business group during coffee break.

As society continues to grapple with racism and injustice, the role of HR in managing workplace safety and inclusivity has come to the forefront.

According to a MetLife survey, 52% of workers expect their company to take a stance on societal issues. Racism, sexism, and xenophobia are just a few threats to a healthy environment for your employees.

The good news is, there are concrete policies and steps you can take today to weed out negative behaviors and provide an inclusive work environment. This may mean you need to rework policies and review company practices such as hiring, recruiting, and promotions. But the effort is well worth it.

Why you should create an anti-racist workplace

Racism creates a “they” or “us” mentality in the workplace. It’s hostile, it’s hurtful, and it will affect everyone. But racism is often more subtle than we are led to believe. It frequently occurs as disrespectful and discriminatory behavior that over time creates a toxic workplace and affects morale.

That’s why simply being “not racist” isn’t enough. Anti-racism is the process of being actively against racism.

Enforcing anti-racist policy creates a more equitable and stable work environment in the long term. Creating an inclusive workplace will ensure that you retain top talent while keeping your team focused on self-improvement and their careers.

While implementing anti-racism policies and frameworks can take time and education, it’s a long-term strategy to create a better environment for everyone.

Creating an inclusive workplace will ensure that you retain top talent while keeping your team focused on self-improvement and their careers.

6 ways to promote anti-racism at work

There are several ways to promote anti-racism in the workplace. Ultimately, these items will work if you take the time to build genuine relationships with your staff and invest in implementing feedback. It’s also important to remember that these are not one-off projects but a continuous investment for a better workplace.

1. Safe spaces

First, it’s vital that your employees feel safe. In addition to ensuring that you shut down and discourage any signs of racism in the office, you may want to designate official “safe space” or resources for your ethnic minority employees. This includes organizations like Black Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), or organizations devoted to bringing together like employees and supporting them.

2. Education

It will be essential to educate your staff on why you are making anti-racist changes to policy, what that means, and more importantly, what that doesn’t mean. Many tend not to understand what anti-racism is and what it entails. Worse, they may have misinformation from malicious sources. It’s important to stress the real positive impact of anti-racist policies.

Furthermore, you may need to foster a more empathic path for communication in the office. This includes providing your employees with training in how to discuss issues with non-violent communication.

3. Review policies

Next, you’ll want to review policies and procedures that may have unintentionally fostered racism in the workplace. This includes every single policy on the books — not just ones related to employee behavior and communications. It’s a good idea to bring on your current minority employees and let them assist in reworking the policies.

4. Let employees be themselves

More importantly, it’s critical to let employees be themselves at work. It’s time to ditch rules about “office-appropriate” hairstyles that disproportionally affect non-white workers and provide cultural-sensitive break times. Depending on your workforce makeup, your exact policies may vary.

But it’s critical to remember that your employees should always feel comfortable with being who they are at work.

5. Review company demographics

Next, you’ll want to review your demographics and see whether or not your hiring and retention practices are inclusive of minority workers. If you have high turnover or low recruitment numbers, you may want to adjust your procedures to include diverse talent.

6. Provide professional development opportunities

Finally, make sure that professional development opportunities are accessible to everyone. This may seem clear-cut, but it’s not always easy to tell. One of the best ways to ensure that more diverse talent makes it up the corporate ladder is through providing that everyone has access to the tools and training they need to succeed.

Learn more about addressing injustice in the workplace

Combating racism and discrimination in the workplace is an ongoing process. Companies that manage these matters properly and create an inclusive work environment are more likely to retain top talent and become leaders in their industry. And your employees expect you to act.

Get the information you need to succeed in stamping out discrimination at your office with our HR Guide to Addressing Social Issues and Racism.

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