Over the years, there has been increased interest to understand how different people view racial discrimination and how the workplace is affected by acts of racism (Regmi, Naidoo & Regmi, 2009). By and large, research indicates that racial discrimination at the workplace has serious repercussions. For this reason, it is imperative for all interested parties to join hands and work towards alleviating or at least lessening the effects of racial discrimination.
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Arguably, employees discriminate against fellow workers because they lack an understanding of how diversity can help to strengthen an organization and hence promote growth. Although numerous efforts have been made by various stakeholders to deal with acts of racism, Khan and Khan (2012) noted that racial discrimination at the workplace continues for a number of reasons including fear of an employee being losing a job and intimidation from employers.
Apparently, racial discrimination is being practiced by perpetrators though secretly. Research professionals are convinced that employers are not doing enough to educate employees on the dangers of racial discrimination and benefits of diversity at the workplace. Among other things, diversity promotes innovation and creates a healthy environment for employees to learn from one another and improve their skills. Fear among victims of racial discrimination is also creates an environment for racism to continue since offenders know that they will not be reported.
This discussion is based on a case of Maria, who has been denied an opportunity for promotion because of her racial background. The organization has chosen to promote Alex who unlike Maria, has been with the organization for a very short period. Alex has equally served in his current position for a very short time. Maria feels that the decision makers were biased and failed to consider many other critical factors.
Legal Implications of the Action taken against Maria
The American Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) prohibits employment policies or practices that lead to unfair treatment of employees. According to the standards set by EEOC, it is illegal to discriminate against an employee because of color, race or any other biased reason. Legally, employers are not allowed to formulate employment policies that discriminative employees on account of race or even color.
Employees may be subjected to discrimination in a number of ways including advertisement for jobs, recruitment, job referrals, discipline, dismissal, pay, and promotion. Maria, for example, is a committed employee who has been denied a promotion due to her distinctive accent. Various forms of discrimination are discussed in the following subsections.
When it comes to promoting employees, organizations must demonstrate a high degree of integrity and fairness to all. The law requires employers not to discriminate against any of their employees based on race and no employer should deny a deserving employee an opportunity to be promoted because of stereotypes. Where an organization has a policy that requires all employees to be examined in a certain way before they can be promoted, the examination process must be seen to be transparent and fair to all employees regardless of their racial affiliation. In the given scenario, Maria was obviously subjected to unfair treatment. Despite the fact that she had served the organization for a longer period than Alex, she fails to get promoted merely because she possesses characteristics considered unpopular by her colleagues.
Advertisement for Jobs
Apparently, some organizations may advertise for jobs with clauses that clear sideline applicants from a given race. Legally, this is not acceptable and employers must be advised to ensure that job advertisements are presented in a manner that encourages all eligible applicants to do so.
Similar to job advertisements, the recruitment process must be fair to all. While recruiting new employees, some organizations have relied on existing employees to recommend possible candidates. While this approach may be faster and enables an organization to save on recruitment costs, employers must see to it that the process does not lead to the employment of people from a given ethnic background while ignoring others because of race or color (Reeves, McKinney & Azam, 2013).
All employees must be paid based on an agreed payment structure. Paying employees from a given ethnic group poorly for racial reasons must be discouraged at all costs. Employees at the same level in the company must be remunerated the same way and no single ethnic group should be favored over another. The same should apply when it comes to benefits. All employees, for example, must receive equal treatment when applying for leave or on retirement.
Justification for the Action taken Against Maria
Although it seems obvious that Maria received unfair treatment in the given scenario, it is important to note that the company may have some reasons, though flimsy, to justify its actions (Cooper-Thomas et al., 2013). The fact that Maria is a good employee and yet the company is unwilling to promote her raises a lot of questions and puts the integrity of the company at stake. However, some reasons have been given to explain what the company has done. First, there is a concern about Maria’s character. She is regarded as being aggressive towards fellow workers and is also known for her lateness and being absent from work. Ostensibly, her behavior has not reformed despite efforts to get her to change. Twice, she has been talked to about laziness and once for being absent from work. The company has gone ahead to justify its actions against Maria by claiming that effective communication is a critical consideration for the position and Maria has a problem with accent. Accordingly, their action should not be interpreted as an act of discrimination against Maria. These issues are discussed briefly in the following subsections.
Aggressiveness towards other Employees
Naturally, people may be afraid to associate with anyone considered to be aggressive. On many occasions, aggression has killed the spirit of cooperation and team work. Given that the goal of every company is to delight its clients by offering competitive services, the company argues that Maria may not be the best person for a position that requires a person who is good at managing people and teams. With this kind of argument, the company feels justified to deny Maria the promotion.
Poor Communication Skills
Another justification for not promoting Maria as explained by management, is difficulty in communicating effectively. Effective communication skills are essential if one has to manage colleagues and influence clients. Failure to communicate effectively, may lead to frictions especially where instructions are given and they are not well understood. People may end up making mistakes that may have serious repercussions for the company. Also, if clients are not fully convinced that their needs can be met by the organization, they can quickly switch to competitors. The company may thus be afraid to promote Maria to a position considered sensitive.
Lack of Necessary Academic Qualifications
Unlike Maria, Alex seems to have a good educational background. Therefore, despite having been in the organization for a shorter period than Maria, he apparently gets the promotion because of his educational background. Considering that the position in question requires someone with a good academic track record, the company has been forced to choose Alex over Maria.
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Possible actions that May be taken by Maria against the Company
Although the company may think that it has every reason to deny Maria the promotion, there are a number of actions that may be taken by Maria to defend her claims of being discriminated upon. The following are arguments that may be presented by Maria in her defense.
Lack of Training Opportunities
There is no indication that Maria is unwilling to learn. In spite of the fact that she has a challenge with effective communication, it is possible for her to be trained and brought to a level where she can communicate effectively. As long as she is willing, she can quickly learn and adapt to the requirements of the job. There is thus no reason why Maria should be denied the promotion.
Dealing with Maria’s character may require the services of a professional counselor. It is not clear whether the company has made any efforts to hire a professional counselor who could deal with Maria’s problems accordingly. Before dismissing Maria as a difficult person to work with, the company should give her enough time to seek professional help. Again, there is no indication that Maria is not willing to work with a professional counselor in order to improve her ability. Maria may thus use this argument to show that the company has denied her the opportunity to excel.
Although the company claims that Maria has been talked to, not much has really been done to understand her challenges and how she could be helped. It may be helpful to spend more time with Maria so as to understand how best to help her improve.
Maria’s situation is a good demonstration of the challenges that organizations face while dealing with employees. It is important for organizations to understand the benefits associated with diversity at the workplace and to create a working environment that encourages every single employee regardless of his or racial background to be their best and excel. Rather than denying Maria the promotion for such flimsy reasons, the company should invest in training her and ensuring that she is able to realize her full potential.
Clearly, all the reasons that may be used by the company to defend its position against Maria may not provide sufficient ground to support the action taken by the company. Certainly, Maria was treated unfairly and has every reason to complain to relevant authorities that can help her realize her dream.
As explained earlier, organization should aim to promote diversity at the workplace. Instead of sidelining employees because of color or race, every company should undertake to carry out a study of the positive aspects of diversity and encourage employees to embrace diversity and see how to benefit from it. In the end, it is the company that reaps the greatest benefit.
Cooper-Thomas, H., Gardner, D., O’Driscoll, M., Catley, B., Bentley, T. & Trenberth, L. (2013). Neutralizing Workplace Bullying: The Buffering Effects of Contextual Factors. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 28(4), 384 – 407. Web.
Khan, A. & Khan, R. (2012). Understanding and Managing Workplace Bullying. Industrial and Commercial Training, 4(2), 85 – 89. Web.
Reeves, T. C., McKinney, A. P. & Azam, L. (2013). Muslim Women’s Workplace Experiences: Implications for Strategic Diversity Initiatives. Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: An International Journal, 32(1), 49 – 67. Web.
Regmi, K., Naidoo, J. & Regmi, S. (2009). Understanding the Effect of Discrimination in the Workplace: A Case Study amongst Nepalese Immigrants in the UK. Equal Opportunities International, 28(5), 398 – 414. Web.