Racism In The Workplace: When Is It Right To Say Something?
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Recent experiences have driven me to continue writing articles about inappropriate workplace behavior and how to work through it. There many people, especially minorities, who feel that all their effort, hard work, and education is for nothing. These days I have the same thoughts more frequently than ever.
What to do when your find yourself in a situation in which you feel that your employer or an agency hired you because they needed minorities in the workplace to meet a quota? What do you do when you feel like a token? At first, you may want to explode and tell you employer exactly how you feel, but you remember that you need a job and that you have to do what you need to do what you have to in order to keep it.
I understand. Based upon some of my personal experience, I understand now more than ever. The question is how long do they expect for you to lay down like a door-mat and continue take subtle forms of racist abuse? In my previous articles about a negative office environment, I have said to remain professional and pleasant. I have also said that you must decide which situations are more important than others. However, I have not yet explained how to handles hostile work environments in which you have to say something. I also never explained when you know that you have to cut your losses. Yes, I said it. Sometimes it is best to cut your losses and let it go, but more importantly, you have to know when to be assertive.
When you are too assertive, your co-workers and your supervisors will perceive you as argumentative and aggressive. Yet, it still doesn’t give anyone the right to treat other employees differently or like crap. Nasty and negative co-workers think that they can do anything and say anything because you don’t immediately respond to their antics. It is a good thing that you don’t respond quickly to their antics, because this shows other people in the office that you are professional, and it reveals more clearly how the aggressor actually behaves toward minorities. You must document each occurrence, but don’t let them still your joy or make you react irrationally.
1. Say something when there is even a hint of a possible lawsuit. The one thing that I have learned while working in hostile work environments is that you are best advised to never let your right hand know what your left hand is doing. The first step that you take is to think about it before going to your supervisor for help. Make sure that you all of your facts together and that you have witnesses that will validate your story. When you first start to see a problem, start documenting every time one of your co-workers does something that is illegal. You may even have to record conversations and transcribe them. Personally, I always kept a notebook full of names and recordings of conversations of certain co-workers and supervisors when situations became too extreme. Thankfully, I have never used that information, but I keep it just in case I need to take legal action in the future. When you decide to tell your supervisor, thoroughly explain the situation even if you did something wrong, and document that meeting as well.
2. Always follow chain of command. Don’t forget to follow chain of command. This is one of the most important things to do when preparing to file a claim against a co-worker or agency. If you have a valid claim than you must follow chain of command, and the quickest way to get your claim dismissed is when don’t follow chain of command. I always suggest seeking an attorney for legal advice and to retain their services. Start with your supervisor, and continue escalating the issue to higher levels of authority within the organization if the problem is not resolved.
3. Check to see if there is a grievance process. Remember the employee handbook that your employer gave you after they hired you. Read it. The employee handbook is one way to substantiate you claim, and it will tell you the proper procedures to file a complaint against a person or against an agency. The employee handbook will also tell you whether or the not you agency is handling your claim appropriately.
4. Seek legal advisement. Sometimes following the company policies can backfire on you, especially if they appear to not do anything. If you want to know whether or not you have a solid case against a specific person or an agency, you have to be careful when you seek prepare to file a legal claim, becaues it can lead to a nasty dispute and cost you your job.
Never let anyone take advantage of you or treat you like dirt on the job. Yes, people talk gossip and may have their differences, but a person or an organization crosses the line when they purposely make your life miserable because of race, gender, religion, or otherwise.
- Heather Browning, MBA, BA