How to confront racism in the workplace

How to confront racism in the workplace

One of the key methods to creating an anti-racist workplace is engaging in challenging, productive, and reflective conversations. This also means challenging implicit or explicit cases of racism when observed in the workplace. Here are some quick tips on how to directly address racism in the workplace:

Speak out.

  • The most effective way to confront racism in the workplace is to speak out when you see it. Whether it be a pay gap, unequal hiring processes, or inappropriate conversations between colleagues, identifying and calling out the behaviour is a way to make the space safer for all colleagues.
  • If you don’t feel comfortable speaking directly to a situation when it’s observed, speak to your manager or the Human Resources department for tips on how to address the situation or to have the issue escalated.
  • Don’t be part of the problem through silent complicity. While it may be uncomfortable in the short term for observers to speak out on situations of inequality, it is far more uncomfortable for the party who is being discriminated against. Short term discomfort experienced from call outs or reporting will create a workplace that is more equitable in the long term.

Be willing to listen and engage when called out.

  • Sometimes, the initial reaction to being called out on racism, especially when the racism is accidental or unintended, is often defensiveness or dismissiveness. Without a thoughtful approach towards antiracism, it’s easy for conversations to become heated and unproductive. Instead, active listening, acknowledging harmful behaviours or actions, and creating a solutions-focused plan of action with the impacted parties will provide a pathway forward to avoiding future harms.
  • Sometimes it’s easier to focus on the intent of words or actions, when really it’s the impact that’s far more important. Even if you didn’t necessarily mean to say something racist or exclusionary, if the impact is that someone’s feelings were hurt, the impact overrides the intent. Thoughtful reflection on how impact and intent matter in the workplace can help further these conversations.

Speak truth to power.

  • Speaking truth to power is an activist tactic that can open space in a workplace that is aiming to create a more diverse and equitable organization
  • Speak to your senior leadership about goals for the organization, and how diversity is an organizational imperative for the mission, vision, values, and strategic approach of the company.
  • Ask and listen for current employee’s experiences with the organization’s culture. 
  • Consult diverse employees and focus on making a plan of action. 
  • Listen to your employees’ and colleagues’ wants and needs and identify current gaps in the structure. 

Don’t be afraid of challenging conversations.

  • Creating an anti-racist organization may involve challenging conversations and asking for difficult feedback, as well as ensuring that all those engaging are prepared for this dialogue through expert facilitation and support. 
  • Holding space for these conversations should not only be the responsibility of employees of colour. White employees should also take on the burden of speaking out, calling out inaction, and providing room for productive dialogue.

Reach out to experts.

  • If you need additional guidance or support in creating a diversity, equity, and inclusion plan for the organization, consider reaching out to professional specialists or consultants who can work with you to develop an actionable approach. 

For bespoke diversity and equality guidance, contact Canadian Equality Consulting and begin a discussion on how to make your workplace more responsive to the needs of your diverse employees.

Categories: Blog