People with high resilience do what they can to enhance their working environment by being respectful to all. They know the importance of an inclusive workplace.
Regrettably, discrimination continues in our communities, organizations, and workplaces. Yet, workplace diversity is the norm. When I was a career counselor assisting those on unemployment insurance with preparing for job interviews, I worked with a man the staff secretly called Dinosaur Guy. He treated me differently from the male professionals in our office, referring to me as The Blonde Dame.
Other derogatory terms he used for women included Ditz Sticks and Peanut Brains. No matter the gentle persuasion, the pleas, the confrontations about his demeaning and objectionable language, he just did not clue into his offensiveness.
I can not tell you the number of women I have counseled who have told me similar and more alarming stories about work issues they have encountered like this. Let there be no doubt that work issues of this nature are completely unacceptable per workplace policies and government legislation, and they need to be reported.
Behaviors that discriminate or harass can wear away self-esteem, confidence and our sense of safety. Excerpts from the Canadian Human Rights Act clarify the line between wanting to be treated in a certain manner and what is a true right under the law:
Excerpt from The Canadian Human Rights Act
- For all purposes of this Act (The Canadian Human Rights Act), the prohibited grounds of discrimination are race, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability, and conviction for which a pardon has been granted.
- Harassment is any behavior that demeans, humiliates or embarrasses a person, and that a reasonable person would have known would be unwelcome. It includes actions (e.g. touching, pushing), comments (e.g. jokes, name-calling), or displays (e.g. poster, cartoons).
- Sexual harassment includes offensive or humiliating behavior that is related to a person’s sex, as well as any behavior of a sexual nature that creates an intimating, hostile, or ‘poisoned’ work environment, or that could reasonably be thought to put sexual conditions on a person’s job or employment opportunities. A few examples are: questions and discussions about a person’s sexual life; touching a person in a sexual way; commenting on someone’s sexual attractiveness or sexual unattractiveness; persisting in asking for a date after having been refused; telling a woman she belongs at home or is not suited for a particular job; eyeing someone in a suggestive way; displaying cartoons or poster of a sexual nature; writing sexually suggestive letters or notes.
- Abuse of authority occurs when a person uses authority unreasonably to interfere with an employee or the employee’s job. It includes humiliation, intimidation, threats, and coercion. It does not include normal managerial activities, such as counseling, performance appraisals, and discipline, as long as these are not being done in a discriminatory manner.
- Each employee has the right to be treated fairly and respectfully in the workplace. Each employee also has the responsibly to treat co-workers and customers in a way that respects individual differences.
The following suggestions to increase inclusiveness and respect come from five main sources:
- A workshop with Tara Maniar, a diversity expert.
- A workshop with Stephen Hammond, a lawyer turned human rights expert and author of Managing Human Rights at Work: 101 practical tips to prevent human rights disasters.
- Conversations with my hubby, Les, a past corporate Ombudsman.
- Conversations and research in preparation to present at the Alberta Managers Society Senior Citizen Housing, The Measure of Tomorrow Conference.
- Excerpts from my book, From Woe to WOW: How Resilient Women Succeed at Work.
Ten Ways to Increase Workplace Inclusiveness and Respect
- Pay attention to when your perceptions, beliefs, words, and behaviors may have offended others.
- Be willing to apologize if you offend or wound another. Defending your position does the opposite of building an inclusive atmosphere.
- Avoid making judgmental comments. When we say, “You are too sensitive,” it sounds and is insensitive.
- People cannot see, hear, nor guess your intentions. They only hear your words and see your actions.
- Acknowledge that we often gather in the company of like-minded people.
- Many workplaces have a tolerance policy. Take the high road and ask yourself, Would I want others to ‘tolerate’ me? Do what you can to move you and your organization from tolerance of differences to respect. Then consider moving to appreciation and finally celebration. Celebrate differences, strengths, and similarities!
- Listen with curiosity to those who appear or sound different. Consider each person as a cultural (background) entity unto themselves.
- If you are the recipient of discrimination or harassment, it is imperative that you do not give in and believe any shaming, blaming or demeaning messages and comments. Note that they often come from those addicted to being in power over others types of positions.
- If asserting your rights is not properly acknowledged, use the organization’s hierarchy to complain. If that does not accomplish appropriate change, contact the Humans Rights Commission.
- Notice what you can do to create increased trust, belonging and appreciation at your next organization’s meeting. Then act on your observations.
Embrace the changing North America demographics. More and more, our workforce and communities depend upon and benefit from the participation and contribution of diverse populations. People in your workplace may include those who have immigrated, have disabilities, are indigenous to our country, and are from the LGBTQ community. Creating an inclusive workplace is not easy but it is indeed, doable!
What workplace experiences have you had that either supported or did not support healthy inclusiveness and respect for all?