Board Coverting News, August 31, 2020

Race In The Workplace (CONT’D FROM PAGE 1 )

And litigation is indeed starting to pile up. “People are more prone than ever before to rush to a lawyer if they feel like their workplace is a hostile environment,” says James J. McDonald, Jr., Managing Partner at the Irvine, California office of Fisher & Phillips. “More companies are starting to be called out for being insensitive or not taking equality seriously.” The resulting media publicity, he adds, can be as damaging as the direct financial penalties. “Employers today have to be concerned about the costs of lawsuits in terms not only of money and time but also of reputation.” Let’s Talk In creating a workplace of inclusion, the first step is to realize that discrimination is generally unintentional. “The most important mental shift we can make is to reconceptu- alize the problem of racial bias,” says Campt. “Rather than a crime against the social contract done only by evil peo- ple, bias is more like a glitch in thinking that everybody is subject to. We are biased not because we are bad people but because our brains are inherently that way.” That collective unconscious mindset sparks real world discriminatory acts. “Most people are not racists or bigots, but they can make judgments based on stereotypes they have learned from the surrounding culture,” says McDon- ald. “As a result, they make decisions based on race or other protected categories without even realizing it.” Such decisions can include hiring, mentoring, promoting and the assigning of work duties. A business looking to upgrade its workplace environ- ment needs to start by addressing any organizational disparities. And one way to do so is to talk about it. “It’s a good idea to have what some companies call a ‘town hall meeting’ to discuss the topic of race relations,” says Gatling. “During this meeting higher levels of management can discuss current events and company policies. For re- mote workers, the event may take place over the Internet on Zoom or Webex.” The organization should present the meeting as a tool for improving operations—not just as a vehicle for paying lip service to equality. “Management needs to completely own the process,” says Dr. Kenneth Kaye, a Chicago-based workplace psychologist. “There should not be the slight- est nod to any statement similar to, ‘Sorry about this. We have to check this box because some people have com- plained.’” Instead, says Kaye, the person leading the meeting might explain its purpose in these terms: “We need to talk about how—not whether—we can be- come a comfortably diverse organization. We are going to be that way for three reasons. Number one, it’s the kind of organization or department that I want to lead. Number two, it’s the best way to be productive. And number three, it’s the law. Let’s start by discussing any of the ways we have failed up to the present time to be a group where ra- cial differences have no effect on anyone’s collaboration,



August 31, 2020

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