Since the EU referendum vote more and more debates are emerging about discrimination at work for the non-British population. Discrimination is a serious topic in any form, whether a gender, a type of sexuality, a nationality, a skin colour, a disability, a body shape, or anything else is targeted.
Therefore we’d like to list underneath the 3 most common passive discriminatory behaviours that are often overlooked in offices.
1. When all one can be is being foreign.
In a professional environment it is rare that people are being hired based on the country they grew up in. There are exceptions where being born in a foreign country is relevant and highly desirable, such as when multilingual requirements are involved. The rest of the time it doesn’t matter and it’s even discriminatory to refer to it in an interview situation besides clarifying relevant legal documentation.
However employees for whom the language of the country they work in is not their mother tongue often become victims of an exaggerated interest for their homelands.
This is often done with at heart the desire to help a foreign colleague integrate and feel at ease. Unfortunately this behaviour achieves exactly the opposite, as it is a constant reminder of the colleague’s foreign status with very little interest for who they are otherwise. By doing so you are telling your colleague, over and over again in the most condescending manner, that you know they are not from your country.
You are foreign.
‘How is the weather in Italy?’
‘Do you receive this TV show in France?’
‘Do the Germans have this type of beer too?’
Bear in mind that you are talking to someone who lives in the same country than you. It is therefore likely that your colleague will be just as au fait of the general happening in his or her homeland as you are.
2. When promoting women turns into an anti-men war.
The time of the attractive secretary who is treated like an irresponsible child, often the type of role for which one would expect Marilyn Monroe, is long forgotten. Nowadays offices and general communication tend to promote women and their underrated set of strengths. In addition the nomination of a female Prime Minister for the UK revives the feminist flame and this seems like a good thing.
Yet promoting women with as basic reasoning the only specificities of their gender is not only limitative but also extremely unfair.
In addition to the female motivational programme comes in certain cases a form of hypersensitivity to male sexism, with or without reason, by which some women still feel victimized in the name of their ancestors. While on the one hand motivational sayings paint the portrait of strong women, the fact that they rarely, if ever, focus on their professional skills negate the positive impact in every day’s work. Also they carry a high level of negativity towards men, which is also a form of gender discrimination. We feel that the work environment needs to focus on employees’ talents before gender.
This said, there is no denying that sexism towards women is still very present in many professions. The attitude of combatting it with the same gender-specific artillery is, however, equally condemnable.
‘Women work all day and when they come back home they still do the cooking and put the children to bed’
‘Never heard of woman flu? That’s because women don’t complain about a little cold.’
‘Women can multitask.’
These naturally are just few of the many examples that can be heard in offices and read on various social media platforms.
3. When normal relationships turn into a hierarchic debacle.
Employees are social creatures and as such they do have affinities with individuals who share their values and their interests. Consequently it’s normal and expected not to love dearly everybody one has to work with. Miscommunication, frictions and misunderstanding occur more often than not and it is in the human nature to disagree. It is also in the human nature to be able to cooperate on work projects like responsible and intelligent adults, whether or not we appreciate the person sitting at the other side of the desk.
In many situations, disagreements or frictions can be resolved cooperatively for the benefit of all, as this is part of natural community behaviour. When the situation is not an abusive or threatening one there is rarely need for a hierarchical authority to intervene, especially when an open discussion is all it takes to solve the issue.
This often happens in long established yet lesser skilled teams where a new colleague is introduced, or in isolated teams model where employees are not in a position to develop an appreciation of the work of other services or projects. This form of behaviour is common in small and medium-sized agencies or team with speciality in marketing, sales, tech support or communication. However this can also be found in other environments.
As a rule it is unwise to resort to authoritarian force when the situation doesn’t require so. This creates an unnecessary climate of fear and insecurity that leads to loss of trust and staff turnover.
Hierarchy can make it worst.
Non-abusive cases in which a manager has been involved to:
- Intervene or condemn on behalf of an upset colleague when there is no other cause than miscommunication
- Deliver additional workload, whether this workload had already been rejected by the employee
- Blame one employee for the failure of a team project
- Demand the support of an employee who has already rejected the query with justified reasons
can be seen as a form of discrimination where the force is used against an employee.
There are no exception.
We hope you won’t recognize many of these.
However should you think you might have similar issues in your offices, don’t hesitate to get in touch! Discrimination is an extremely serious topic and can happen in many forms. While it is easy to identify large-scaled hatred as discrimination, passive behaviours that lead employees to receive ever so slightly different social treatments enable favoritism and prejudices. Act now to guarantee fairness and tolerance for all your employees.
We’re here to help you keep your staff productive and happy.