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Inclusivity – The Secret Sauce in the Recipe for Preventing Harassment and Discrimination

Inclusivity – The Secret Sauce in the Recipe for Preventing Harassment and Discrimination

There is little doubt that diversity, equity and inclusion has been one of the hottest topics of 2022. While DE&I is a critical element of a healthy workplace culture, the concept in whole is often misunderstood. Too many organizations rush to become “more diverse” without taking the time to implement strategies on the “equity” and “inclusion” elements of the field. Indeed, those organizations that focus on the trees and miss the conceptual forest often fail to see that inclusion is the “secret sauce” in the recipe for preventing harassment and discrimination.

Potential for Harassment Grows with Lack of Inclusion

Although the law does not prohibit simple teasing or offhand remarks, offensive conduct typically starts by marginalizing an individual or group at work based on “perceived” weaknesses. Such perceptions are often wholly incorrect, and are developed through biases (both conscious and unconscious) that are perpetuated through a lack of inclusion. While that may be a lot of language, the concept is simple: when we fail to include the thoughts, opinions, beliefs, experiences and point of view of everyone in the workplace, the potential for biases and stereotypes to become the subject of offensive remarks or behavior greatly increases. Accordingly, the potential for behavior that rises to harassment dramatically increases. Worse yet, the marginalized individuals (through a lack of inclusiveness) often fail to report the misconduct until it is too late.

Discrimination is tied to Exclusion

Lack of inclusion in the workplace goes far beyond offensive behavior and often crosses into the realm of discrimination when the individuals being excluded are members of a protected class. For example, when managers only hire people who look like, act, or think like them, or exclude certain members of the workforce from projects or social gatherings the ingredients of discrimination are there. While it cannot be expected that every member of the workforce is the best friend of every other, it can be expected that a culture of inclusivity is in place to foster working relationships that are positive, healthy, and include different beliefs and backgrounds. Beyond the legal aspects of discrimination, innovation and collaboration improve when everyone feels as though they have a voice.

To Promote Cultural Change there Must be Effective Education

Improving inclusion takes a lot more than just putting language in a policy or having a CEO make a statement to that effect. To make a cultural shift, education programs must focus on these concepts and time must be spent to stress the organizational focus on these concepts. By fostering actual conversations among the workforce about inclusivity, we see the concept in action. Only once people are talking about the subject can they begin to feel open to express their beliefs and opinions. But in order to foster positive conversation on inclusion there must not only be education, but the kind of education that challenges members of the workforce to speak up about these important topics.

A lack of inclusion not only empowers those who harass others and harbor discriminatory views, but also leaves the door open for others to either remain silent or join in on the inappropriate misconduct (for fear of being cast as a member of the outgroup). Thankfully, when organizations and their leadership truly embrace inclusion as a tenet of their workplace culture the overall organizational tolerance for such misconduct is proven to be reduced or even eliminated. For this reason, Syntrio invites you to contact a member of our staff to see how our education programs involving DE&I, harassment, discrimination, speak up/listen up, and workplace civility and respect can reduce the potential for an incident of harassment and discrimination, and help make your workplace one your employees are proud to call their own for a long period of time.

Since 2007, Jonathan has practiced labor and employment law on behalf of management. Jonathan focuses his practice on advising employers on the prevention of harassment and discrimination issues, with an emphasis on providing in-person harassment training programs to companies of all sizes. Jonathan is licensed in California, Illinois, and Wisconsin, and maintains a national advice practice.

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