Discrimination and Harassment
Discrimination refers to unfair treatment or different treatment of employees at the workplace. Harassment is a form of discrimination that involves unjust treatment of individuals based on color, age, gender, religion, and other personal characteristics (Raver, & Nishii, 2010). Discrimination and harassment occur when a boss, supervisor, or worker says or does something intimidating or threatening to an individual in the work environment. Discrimination and harassment can have a damaging impact on the confidence, morale, health, and performance of those being harassed. This paper will discuss factors that contribute to discrimination and harassment at the workplace, the effects of discrimination and harassment, and how to eliminate workplace bullying and harassment. Being a global workplace problem, discrimination and harassment have adverse effects on an organization’s individuals and productivity, and it should therefore be eliminated.
Discrimination and harassment at the workplace is illegal, especially if it is based on race, gender, age, marital status, or any other personal characteristic that anti-discrimination laws protect. Marginalized individuals, including women, gays and lesbians, disabled, and racially marginalized workers, are more likely to experience workplace discrimination and harassment than individuals from the socially advantaged groups. Women are more affected by the social risk factors that expose them to discrimination than men. According to Sears and Mallory (2011), up to 27% of LGB reported to have experienced workplace harassment. The racially disadvantaged workers are also more likely to report discrimination and harassment than white workers. Workers mostly do discrimination and harassment from socially advantaged groups, including bosses, supervisors, and workmates. Harassment is done by attacking individuals’ personal characteristics or work roles (Lewis & Gun, 2007).
Apart from the social factors, labor stratification also contributes to discrimination at the workplace. According to Galabuzi and Block (2011), the high rates of discrimination against women and immigrant workers reflect the high number of these workers in high-risk occupations. For instance, the marginalized social groups are more represented in health, social services, and education those other occupations. In addition, these people mostly hold junior positions at the workplace, making them more prone to harassment. For instance, women and immigrant workers have most of the junior positions like secretaries, cleaners or messengers at the office. This labor stratification contributes to workplace discrimination and harassment as the marginalized people hold powerless positions (Galabuzi & Block, 2011).
Discrimination and harassment have adverse effects on workers and the workplace environment. Harassment directly threatens the physical, psychological, and emotional wellbeing of workers. Harassed workers lack moral, confidence, and work satisfaction, which harms their physical and mental health (Sears & Mallory, 2011). Other negative impacts of workplace harassment include high employee turnover, reduced productivity, increased sick leaves, social isolation and fewer promotion opportunities. In addition, victims of workplace discrimination and bullying are also more exposed to work-related illnesses and injuries, and this could have a long term effect on their health and productivity. Workplace bullying, which is also a form of harassment is associated with psychological problems and increased use of alcohol and drugs, especially among socially marginalized workers. Workplace harassment also harms co-workers, managers and business owners due to high rates of absenteeism, turnover rates and reduced productivity (Galabuzi & Block, 2011).
Cases of workplace discrimination and harassment are just the tip of the iceberg as they mostly indicated an unhealthy workplace and issues of power structure. Elimination workplace harassment should therefore consider the workplace context as well as interpersonal relations. Sometimes, employers initiate or allow discrimination and harassment probably due to pressures from the government and other forces. Factors like organization change, increased workloads and job insecurity could also contribute to workplace harassment. In order to create a discrimination and harassment free workplace, employers, managers, and employees should all be involved (Lewis & Gun, 2007).
Employers and managers should deal with harassment incidences as soon as they are reported. Managers should also lead by promoting a respectful work environment and have zero tolerance for disrespectful behaviors. Employees and workers should refrain from actions that could offend other people. Unions also help improve workplace conditions and deal with discrimination through bargaining, mobilization, and other collective actions. Eliminating discrimination and harassment at the workplace therefore requires collective action by all stakeholders (Raver, & Nishii, 2010).
In conclusion, workplace discrimination and bullying is a problem that has adverse effects on individuals and the workplace environment. Harassment affects the physical, psychological and emotional wellbeing of employees. In addition, it reduces productivity, increase absenteeism and undermines the work environment. It is the duty of employers, managers, employees and workers to engage in practices that eliminate harassment. However, harassment can still occur even with the most preventive measures and so future research should focus on more preventative actions against workplace bullying. Employers should focus on building inclusive work environments and squashing harassment as soon as it occurs.