Do you know the mood of your organization? Maybe there is a bully roaming in the lunch room or an office jokester that went too far. An employer should mandate training for staff and management that focuses on what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior at all levels. Remember, tone is everything: set a tone for your employees to feel comfortable and confident they can come to you with a valid complaint and know they will be heard. Train managers to recognize tension and any disruption of organization code of conduct. If a need is identified, reinforce with specialized training. Nip it in the bud and take action before it becomes an elevated issue. Follow these tips below on how to avoid discrimination in the workplace.
Educate. What is discrimination? The United States has enacted laws since 1964 to prevent job discrimination. These laws prohibit discrimination based on age, race, disabilities, genetic information, gender and national origin. Known as the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Laws, or EEO laws, these laws and the Civil Service Reform Act are intended to ensure all employees of fair treatment in the workplace. This also includes harassment by coworkers or management.
Engage and communicate. Can you sense a change in disposition? If a normally upbeat employee suddenly withdrawals from productive conversation this may signal something is up. It is important to create a culture to inspire communication at every level. When open communication is encouraged, your management team must commit to improving the employer-employee relationship. Employees will feel more at ease discussing sensitive topics to a manager who listens to understand and formulates a solution.
Be seen. Are you up for a weekly walkthrough? There is nothing more motivating to an employee than to see the boss in the midst of the day-to-day. Take the time to observe employees working, interacting in the break-room, and networking during the shift. Make it the standard rather than a surprise visit, which can prove to be intimidating. Ask questions, answer questions, and quickly address things you identify as a potential discrimination or harassment issue. As an example, if you see a distasteful screen saver that may offend, address it immediately. However, there is a fine line between observation and micro-managing; keep in mind your task at hand is to engage employees and keep the communication flowing. This exercise will also indicate the need for training or policy updates.
Monitor, document and evaluate. Do you participate in the review process? Generally, if an employee is experiencing discrimination or harassment, there may be revealing signs within your evaluation process. Look for changes in productivity or disengagement with co-workers. Be sure your evaluation process offers a comment or a feedback section for employees to express concerns in writing.
Create an exit interview. Do you know why employees are leaving? Investigate your turnover rate, it could be holding key information. Of course, you will have staff leaving for reasons like pay or relocation, but you may want to dig a little deeper. An exit interview is designed to gain valuable feedback from the employee leaving, in hopes it will provide insight into areas of improvement for the organization, the existence of discrimination, and need for additional training.
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