Back to all

How to Combat Racism in the Workplace: 5 Important Dos and Don'ts

Racism in the Workplace


Culturally diverse workplaces are becoming more common, but that doesn't mean workplaces aren't still riddled with microaggressions and subtle discrimination. Whether you're hiring your first employee or have a team of seasoned colleagues, it's important to institute best practices that help combat racism in the workplace.

These microaggressions – small, commonplace comments or actions that are not intentionally malicious but reveal implicit bias – can be hard to spot, but they create an uncomfortable working environment for everyone. Luckily, there is a lot we can do as managers, HR professionals and employees to combat racism at work. Read on for five quick essential Dos and Don’ts to keep in mind.

Don’t: Ignore The Problem

Racism and discrimination are not things that can be swept under the rug. Ignoring the problem will only lead to resentment, decreased productivity and high employee turnover. This will also make it harder for you to identify what is causing the discomfort or hostility at work, and it will be harder to implement solutions to combat it.

Some signs that you need to address racism and discrimination in your workplace include:

  • Employees avoiding each other in social settings outside of work
  • Employees who report feeling stressed or uncomfortable in other people’s presence
  • Employees who are consistently disengaged or have low morale
  • Employees who are unhealthily competitive with each other

Do: Have Clear Company Policies Against Racism And Discrimination

Your first step in combatting racism and discrimination is to ensure your company has policies against these things. Create an anti-discrimination policy with language that clearly defines what is, and what isn't, discrimination. In addition, have a policy against racism and microaggressions to lay out what is, and what isn't, appropriate behavior in the workplace. Make sure to clearly communicate these policies to your staff, and hold managers accountable for holding their staff members accountable for following them.

Having these policies in place will help you combat racism in the workplace both proactively and reactively. You can use the policies when conducting performance reviews, creating promotions or reassignments or when dealing with reports of discrimination or complaints about microaggressions.

Do: Be Proactive And Hold Discussions About Equity And Inclusion

You can't assume that your employees know that discrimination and racism are wrong. You have to proactively discuss issues of equity and inclusion, and make sure everyone on your team understands what is and isn't appropriate. Talk about what equity means in the workplace, and what is expected of everyone regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation and more.

Hold discussions with your team on why equity and inclusion matter in the workplace, and how everyone can do their part to help promote it. Hold recurring workshops and discussions on topics like microaggressions, implicit bias and the impact of language. These are often topics that people don't want to think about, but they have a big impact on the workplace. Holding these discussions will help make the workplace a safe space for everyone.

Don’t: Only Cope With Racism When It Happens

Although you should be prepared to deal with racism and discrimination when it happens, you should also be proactive in combatting it. You can do this through a combination of the following:

  • Hiring and promoting people of color
  • Studies have shown that having more diverse employees can help decrease implicit bias in managers.
  • Holding regular training on topics like implicit bias, microaggressions and equity and inclusion.
  • Initiating open and honest discussions about race when appropriate.
  • Creating tools and methods to help employees combat their own implicit bias.

These are just a few ways to combat racism that happen outside of dealing with a specific incident. Being proactive will help combat racism in the long term.

Do: Ensure People Know Where To Go If They Experience Or Witness Racism Or Discrimination

Make sure your employees know where to go if they experience or witness racism or discrimination at work. Have two clear paths for people to report incidents: a standard path for incident reporting and a trusted path for reporting racism and discrimination. This can be an internal hotline or website where people can go to report incidents, or it can be a person in your HR department.

Be clear about how people can report incidents, and make sure they know they will be kept in confidence. Investigate all reports thoroughly, and make sure the employees who reported it know the outcome and how they will be protected from any reprisals. Allowing people to report racism and discrimination openly and confidentially will help you combat it. These five dos and don’ts will help you fight racism in the workplace.

Racism in the workplace is a real issue that many companies are grappling with, but it doesn’t have to be something that stays unsolved. By following these best practices, you can make your workplace a safe and inclusive space for all employees.

Need more help?

Check out our free course on this topic: Let’s Talk About Racism. Or, download our guide for more leadership tips!

Write a comment Close
Only registered users can leave comments.