Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Discrimination at Workplace

Have you ever been asked to stay out of a project because of your caste? Have you been paid less because of your gender? Or have you ever been denied of promotion because of your religion? These questions might sound strange in the first place, however, giving it a deeper though reveals that many people face this kind of discrimination at their workplaces.

Discrimination, going by Oxford Concise Dictionary, is nothing but unfair treatment against a person or a group of persons based on prejudice. Differentiating people on basis of certain characteristics like age and gender or on grounds such as race and religion is discrimination. Discrimination at work is a matter of serious concern for organizations all over the world.

Forms of discrimination:
Discrimination at workplace can take place in any form. Be it on the basis of race, gender and religion. Newer forms of biases, which are more subtle and less visible, like age, disability, genetic disposition, migration, HIV/AIDS, sexual orientation and lifestyle are also emerging. Every professional, be it a sales person, a journalist, an executive or a software engineer, has faced discrimination and has a story to tell: stories of harassment and humiliation; stories of injustice and discrimination, tales of how male colleagues' attempt to limit professional success of their female counter parts, how one employee is being looked down upon by other employee only because he belongs to a lower caste, how one’s abilities are directly judged by one’s personality or color and what not.

The most common and prevalent form of discrimination is the one based on race and religion. Judging an individual by race and not by performance comes under discrimination. Such behavior of an employer can humiliate an individual and put him under stress and depression. Differences in compensation packages between employees on basis of color or race are also an unhealthy practice. In terms of age discrimination, younger workers are often being paid less for they are assumed to be inexperienced. Moreover, there is a negative attitude among employers for recruiting and retaining older workers. Talking about gender biases, women in India still remain the largest group that faces discrimination. Women today comprise only 2 per cent of the total managerial strength in the Indian corporate sector. While more and more women are joining the corporates now with better salaries and even at senior levels, pay equity compared with their male counterparts is still a disappointing. Migrants in Asia are also facing discrimination with low wages, menial jobs, and exploitative jobs contracts.

Discrimination at work
Discrimination at work can come from either the employee of from the colleague side. Discrimination by colleagues can happen to new employees. They may face sarcastic stares or constant digs made at them by their colleagues during initial weeks. However, if it persists for a long time, it can affect not only the employee but also the employer. The effect on the employee can be huge or meager but the impact on organization remains for a longer time. An employee who is being discriminated witnesses non cooperation from peers and negative feedbacks form subordinates. Discrimination leads to psychological and emotional disturbance, resulting in demoralization and descend in performance standards. It brings down the overall performance, and fuels more discrimination, which in turn increases the number of gaps in one's work further. Discrimination at workplace also affects the society. The socio-economic inequalities get widened and social cohesion and solidarity are eroded. It results in wastage of human talent and resources.

Employer's role 
Recognizing the fact that unwanted attention to any aspect of an employee demoralizes him, hits his performance level and ultimately results in loss to the employee in the short term and to the organization in the long run, employers should promote a discrimination free environment within the organization. The employer should try to be an equal employment opportunity provider and should take affirmative actions towards disables and other weaker sections of its workforce. To maintain bias free environment throughout the organization, employees at all levels should be provided periodic counseling to train them to bring out the best in their new colleagues. All employees should be made to understand that harassing their colleagues indirectly causes loss to the organization and its can have adverse effects on its repute.

Fighting back:
Be it a manager or clerk, a contract worker or the one who is on rolls, a person deserves all the respect and benefits that come with the post. Every employee has a right to a harassment and discrimination free workplace. As long as his performance is meeting the standards set by the employer, he has the right to excel and grow and decide his career path. If an employee feels discriminated on basis of physical appearance, religion, sex, caste or age, he has every right to raise his voice against discrimination and seek a remedy from his employer. In this context, employers need to ensure that they do not practice any form of discrimination or micro inequality. Similarly, organizations need to promote a harassment free culture.


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