Workplace Abuse, Harassment and Discrimination

A number of high profile cases of sexual harassment and assault has been reported and are making headlines lately. This doesn’t mean that there has been no such instances occurring prior to this. In 2006, civil rights activist Tarana Burke has already coined a phrase “Me Too” and used it in order to raise awareness against sexual abuse and assault in society. It soon turned out to be a worldwide movement following the use of #MeToo by the American actress Alyssa Milano.

Although most complains were based on sex, but many also experienced intersectional harassment, which includes age, disability, gender, race, religious beliefs, sexual orientation and ethnicity. Everyday a vast majority of people from these groups now express their concern that little attention has been paid to their experiences of these racial, gender and ethnic discrimination, and to their beliefs that they are not met with fair treatment in hiring decisions or in opportunities for promotion and advancement where they work. They are often subjected to bullying at workplace. Most often it’s a face-to-face form of bullying, which can be very obvious and easy to understand at times, but sometimes it can also be difficult to explain. It can be in the form of verbal abuse like humiliating the person in front of others, demeaning someone by picking on them or setting them up to fail, or deliberately undermining a competent worker with constant criticism. Ignoring views and opinions, withholding information which can affect a worker’s performance, setting unreasonable or impossible deadlines, setting unimaginable workloads, spreading malicious rumors, intentionally blocking promotion or training opportunities, overbearing supervision or other misuse of power or position like threatening to throw out of job are other means of harassing an employee by others who are in most cases senior in the workplace hierarchy. In short, workplace bullying, which aims at undermining an individual or a group of employees, is always expressed in an offensive, intimidating, and humiliating behavior. Threats or bribes with an unwanted sexual attention is also at a rise in these places of employment. The person being harassed sees these actions as demeaning, unacceptable, or disrespectful.

Harassment can exhibit itself in the cyber world via offensive or threatening phone calls, emails, posting defamatory stories on blogs and social networking sites, and even posting personal or private details online. Victims of cyber bullying goes through the same feeling of fear, intimidation, stress and low morale, as a person who has experienced a face-to-face bullying. The most difficult part of this cyber harassment is that the person being bullied has no control over the bully or the abuse being witnessed. To make matters worse, it is most likely to take place outside office or office hours.

The rate of this workplace discrimination increases with increased pace of cost cutting in the organization. The major reason behind failure to raise a concern during such a moment of crisis is fear of further unfair treatment and may be loss of one’s job too.

Black women employees are twice as likely to be bullied as their white counterparts. While workers from other ethnic groups have also experienced higher level of racial, gender and other types of discrimination. Constant expose to such kind of violence can make the victim feel anxious, intimidated, threatened and humiliated. It can lead to frustration and anger which might result in stress, loss of self-confidence and self-esteem. Employees can also lose motivation, thus affecting work performance and absence levels. In extreme circumstances, the consequences can be either self-harm or suicide.

Prejudices and stereotyping on the grounds of age, disability, gender identity, religion, nationality and sexual orientation are biases that work together to create and maintain social inequality. These prejudices whether positive or negative, conscious or unconscious, are responsible for all cases of harassment, and the issues become more pressing with each passing day. Majority of these experiences of discrimination and job stress occur as a result of different attitudes and expectations that the so called dominant group have regarding the skills, authority, leadership abilities of these suppressed minority group.

Little do they know that recruiting and retaining diverse employees from different racial and ethnic background benefits a company. By creating a diversity-friendly environment companies gain an advantage in its ability to adapt, grow, sustain in this competitive modern business scenario.

Working with the same group of people, sharing similar background and experiences can make one feel at ease at times, but it soon turns out to be monotonous. People need to get motivated and excited to think diversely and expand their horizon. A heterogeneous company can bring about new ways of ideas and viewpoints, helping other employees in more objective or factual ways. When people from all areas of life work together as a team and put into their group efforts and skills it would lead to improved efficiency and productivity. Research also shows that groups with racial, ethnic, gender and sexual orientation diversity are more innovative than their homogeneous peers. All these not only boost profits, but also improve customer orientation, employee satisfaction and better decision making within the organization. Companies are in constant need of producing or creating the best products or services to thrive in this competitive world and must always therefore work towards a balanced workforce. These organizations want to reach consumers at the global marketplace, and they need employees who understand consumer culture in various other countries.

Diverse teams often outperform the non-diverse ones. The companies should therefore take initiative to eradicate any form of bullying at workforce along with the ego and testosterone filled crimes. It is important to raise awareness and tackle these issues at the earliest, else it will cause more stress and suffering for the victim as well as the person who has witnessed it. Women belonging to different ethnic group are at double jeopardy for experiences of discrimination and job related stress at workplace. To eliminate prejudices and internal resistance, companies need to promote and monitor diversity policy in the workplace. Person being harassed or the witness should be able to deliver his or her complain to all hierarchical levels by means of messaging. This should be made easy for workers to raise their concerns, and the procedure should be confidential, backed by prompt and effective action to investigate and settle them transparently and seriously. Both the employers and the employees have to work together to ensure and effectively promote and protect the workers belonging to certain race, ethnicity, religion, gender and sexual orientation.

The success of an organization in this highly competitive world depends upon how well it embraces diversity at workplace and realizes its benefit. Eliminating disparities from within a workforce is difficult task, and what makes it more challenging is if it is accepted as a part of a culture. A lack of diversity has been linked with increased level of inequalities or injustices like lack of advancement opportunities, inequalities in reward, high turnover, lack of training and personal developments, negative treatment and undesirable work environment. The person being exposed to such trauma feels alienated and vulnerable, and a distracted soul cannot accomplish a task successfully or satisfactorily. Failure to deal with such behaviors will also have an adverse effect on the entire organization’s advancement and reputation as well. Diversity in the workplace is thus crucial and it can only be created through understanding, recognition, planning and execution of plans and policies to preserve the rights of the minorities.

Written by Subhana Faujia Rahmanwork

Founder/CEO of Inyore. A platform that gives employees a safe and secure place to share, learn, engage with one another on sensitive topics in the workplace

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