Discrimination at the workplace is one of those things which is often subtle. Those at the receiving end often wonder if there is something truly wrong or if it is just ‘in their heads.’ This is because of several reasons. Outright discrimination is a crime and a sure way to get thrown out of an organisation, so most people who discriminate go the extra mile to ensure that their actions aren’t obvious to anyone but the victim. On the other hand, victims still don’t have voices, and some of the most powerful ones don’t speak up in order to avoid backlash. While gender discrimination is one that immediately comes to mind, there are other actions that happen within an organisation that could also count as discrimination.
People who suffer from diseases that have a stigma associated with them, such as AIDS and Tuberculosis, often find themselves ostracised even at their workplace. Aside of the medical care which is mandatory, these people are treated like social outcasts, making it difficult for them to work.
Who employees spend time with outside of the workplace must be their own prerogative. If you have a dating policy in your organisation, it must apply to homosexual couples without prejudice. But many homosexual individuals are treated differently and are pushed around by seniors and colleagues alike. Likewise, inclusion of sexual minorities into mainstream education and employment is something that needs a lot of working on.
You can build as many ramps as you like, but true inclusion of the disabled can only happen when you change mindsets. By hiring disabled employees who can otherwise perform to their fullest capacity in a role, you’re sending out a message that you see the employee as more than their disability. But that is the ideal world. Many people in the organization mean well, but they tend to discriminate when it comes to behaviour and also allocation of responsibility to the disabled professionals in the company.
In a rush to hire people from Ivy League institutes, we may be losing out on talent that has grown the hard way — by educating themselves despite all odds. Likewise, age is not an indicator of experience or expertise; talent and drive are. This prejudice starts off in the hiring process in many companies, and then extends to promotions and appraisals.
There are some mothers in corporate India who don’t tell their interviewers that they have kids at home, just to avoid not being hired based on that factor alone. Likewise, people who have commitments on the home front may find themselves shunted to projects of lesser importance and passed on for promotions.
As an employer, an employee may not always approach you for the fear of how his/her issue may be perceived. It is important, therefore, that you observe your workplace keenly. Inclusion and sensitisation programs can prevent these incidents to an extent. Make sure your HR team is on the same page as you about discrimination. If you’re an employee and think you’re being discriminated against, seek support from the organisation’s counselling group. Ask for skill-building resources. If you’re convinced you’re being discriminated against, don’t be afraid to approach your employer and discuss what’s on your mind.