Avoid A Discriminatory Workplace
There are regulations, rules and laws in place to prevent discrimination against religion, age, gender, race, sexuality and disabilities for good reason. Everyone deserves a fair chance—and the best person for the job might be the 55 year old lady in a wheelchair. Unfortunately, just because the rules are there, doesn’t mean discrimination doesn’t happen. As a recruiter, it’s something I have to watch constantly.
There’s a lot of discussion about equality, inclusivity and diverse hiring at the moment as it’s an important focus for businesses in today’s social climate, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about. I’m here to talk about workplace culture, and what to do when one you are looking at, isn’t the most forward thinking.
Let’s say, a candidate successfully makes it through the recruitment process at an organisation. The recruiter and/or hiring manager has made a ‘diverse hire’, but regretfully, the team the new employee will be working with is not on board with this 21st century way of thinking. The new employee can find themselves in a bit of a hard spot. They will face judgement from their new colleagues, for things they cannot change about themselves.
I’m female, my name looks foreign, I’m in prime baby-making time, I’m of mixed race and my fiancée is a woman. If a potential employer or colleagues wanted to discriminate against me for any of these reasons— I don’t want to work there. I’ve been in this position, and it can be rough, so I’m here to give you three pieces of very candid advice to anyone, who like me doesn’t fall into the homogenous majority, but may find themselves considering a role in a less than inclusive work place:
1. Research the company before you consider interviewing
What types of people are leading the company? Does the company have a rainbow tick? Do they have disability parking? Will they let you have Sundays off? It’s important to know what values the company stands for, and what they are doing to ensure their employees have a safe and inclusive environment.
2. Be honest in the interview
There’s lots of advice out there that says to do the absolute opposite of this. Maybe it’s just me, but I think that’s wrong… especially if you’re interviewing with someone that will be your direct manager. This gives you a chance to gauge their reactions and to bring up team fit. Being honest can be as forthright as dropping the bomb (“I think it’s important for you to know I have been diagnosed with X or suffer from X”) or as subtle as using particular terms (think “boyfriend” instead of partner). If you feel strongly that you want to work in a team of diverse races and cultures, say so.
3. Don’t be afraid to call people out
Sometimes the offender doesn’t realise that their words or actions are causing you discomfort or hurt. The only way to spark any kind of change is to tell them that what they have done or said doesn’t sit well with you, and to please stop that behaviour. If nothing changes, don’t be afraid to talk to HR. Obviously being so vocal about your situation and your worldview in this way won’t work for everyone. Our society is taking some great steps towards being more inclusive and accepting, but there’s still a wee way to go.
If you’ve read this far and have found yourself thinking ‘that doesn’t apply to me’ well firstly, you can use this as a chance to practice gratitude! You do have an important role to play though, and that is to support and be an ally to those who may not enjoy the privileged position that you do.
If you are someone who doesn’t fit the standard mould, and are fearful of ending up in a workplace where you are not accepted for who you are, fortunately, these types of workplaces are less and less common these days. But in order to protect yourself, you will need to be bold when searching, and interviewing for a job. Finally, I encourage everyone reading this to check your labels and judgements and try your best to make everyone in your organisation as comfortable as possible.
“We rise by lifting others”
– Robert G Ingersoll