This question was raised by Donna Ballard, “Does Discrimination Still Exist? Of Course It Does.” Perhaps tongue-in-cheek, in an article back in August of 2011. The events these last two weeks involving Rancher Cliven Bundy in Nevada and Clipper’s owner, Donald Sterling demonstrate that the issue has not disappeared.
Ms. Ballard may be a plaintiff’s attorney, but the statistics she quotes were accurate and have been consistent since 2011. Moreover, in an age of FOX vs. MSNBC, our culture is becoming even more polarized in how we interpret facts. We all know that perception becomes our reality. The result is that within your company, there is a growing risk that an employee may misinterpret a totally innocent incident or announcement as being potentially discriminatory or harassment.
What can be done to prevent or minimize this possibility? The need for complete transparency and communication has never been greater. By complete, I am pointing towards open, honest, two-way communication. Processes like an Open Door Policy, an Employee Hotline, Town Hall Meetings, Supervisor Huddles and Safety Chats, Employee Newsletters all assist in getting a clear message to employees and avoiding unnecessary misunderstandings. Training the management team in their role and responsibility regarding effective communication is another important element. These same simple tools also have significant impact on other areas as well, like engagement, productivity and quality improvement.
Effective training and communication programs are important tools in helping an organization create a positive work environment which significantly reduces the chance of racism existing. Companies should be proactive in establishing these resources and training leaders on how to use them. These approaches can also help groups avoid costly lawsuits.
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