Discussing Race is Essential in The Workplace
Discussing race is essential in the workplace.
Many employers have expressed support for diversity in the workplace, and, have engaged in considerable work to support diversity. Yet, glaring present is the veil of taboo around one diversity and inclusion’s core issues – discussing race in the workplace.
Although it’s been 60 years since the legal end of racial segregation in the workplace, racial inequity is still an ever-present topic in America. While our nation grapples with the country’s complicated racial past and present, the workplace generally remains virtually silent with regard to discussions regarding race.
Perhaps due to its complicated history, discussing race in the workplace is seen as emotional, divisive, hard to navigate, or even unproductive.
However, attempting to address racial inequity through diversity and inclusion initiatives, without actually engaging in discussing race is counterproductive and harmful.
A recent article in the Harvard Busines Review, titled, “People Suffer at Work When They Can’t Discuss the Racial Bias They Face Outside of It,” makes the case for engaging in discussions about race, while at work.
The Article’s Findings
78% of Black professionals “say they’ve experienced discrimination or fear that they or their loved ones will — nearly three times as many as white professionals.”
Even so, according to that same article “38% of Black professionals also feel that it is never acceptable at their companies to speak out about their experiences of bias — a silence that makes them more than twice as vulnerable to feelings of isolation and alienation in the workplace.”
Black employees who feel as though they are unable to discuss biases are almost three times more likely to have plans to leave an organization, than those who feel able to discuss race.
Moreover, Black employees who feel they are unable to discuss bias are 13 times as likely to be disengaged.
The good news is this, organizations need not avoid discussing race. The vast majority of professionals view organizations to provide an open forum to discuss race, and societal incidents of racial discrimination in a positive light.
“Of those who are aware of companies responding to societal incidents of racial discrimination, robust majorities of Black (77%), white (65%), Hispanic (67%), and Asian (83%) professionals say they view those companies in a more positive way.” Employees also note strong “bonds forged between team leaders and members” as well as “greater understanding across racial and political divides.”
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