Racial Diversity in the Workplace Training
5 Essential Tips
by Erich Toll
First the good news: race relations have improved. After all, who in the 1960s would have imagined that today we would have an African-American president?
But much improvement is needed, as evidenced by the recent spate of high-profile, fatal police shootings of African-American men.
We see this need for improvement even in the ridiculous. Actor/comedian Chris Rock has been pulled over by police three times in the past seven weeks. Rock hilariously posted selfies of each police stop, but there is tragedy within: he was likely stopped by police because of profiling.
This lingering profiling, suspicion, and racism certainly affects the workplace. In fact, the issue of race in the workplace will only become more pressing, as our workforce becomes increasingly diverse.
As of 2012, some 36% of our workforce is comprised of people who are not Caucasian. These include Hispanics (16%), African American (12%), and Asian (5%).
By the year 2050 there will be no ethnic or racial majority in the United States, according to census data in our Diversity Resource Center. This will heavily impact the workplace, as immigrants and their children will account for 83% of the workforce growth.
How does your workplace need to respond? You need an effective diversity training program, and one facet it must focus on is race. Here are 5 ways employees can modify their behavior, to foster racial awareness, respect, and inclusion.
Practice Respect – first all employees need to make the effort. When interacting with people from a different racial background, respect the difference. If a coworker has a different ethnicity, unusual accent, or a name that’s difficult to pronounce, make the effort to respect, and accept differences as equally valid as your own indentity.
Avoid Jokes – most jokes rely on making fun of someone. If you’re making fun of race or ethnicity or nationality, it can only lead to harmful consequences. Still want to be witty or funny? The safest jokes are always the ones in which people gently poke fun at themselves.
Say No to Stereotypes – the problem with stereotypes is that they can be hurtful – even when intended as a compliment. People often say that African-Americans are great at certain activities, or Asians always excel in a certain area. But even positive, complementary stereotypes are far from true – and usually frustrate the individual.
Get Cultured – people are generally proud of their backgrounds. If coworkers are of a different race, or born in another country, make the effort to learn about their race and background. A diversity calendar is an essential for raising awareness of events important to diverse groups.
Proud of my German heritage, I once asked an African-American friend what country his ancestors hailed from. We both knew that for many African-Americans, this can be difficult if not impossible to answer. But my friend – who told me he thinks his ancestors came from the area that is now Ghana – deeply appreciated my asking.
Include All – as we all have different appearances, so too do we have different worldviews. Whenever making business decisions, involve people from diverse races. Involving team members from all backgrounds will help ensure that your decisions will be successful in our increasingly multiethnic, multiracial society.