4 ways to Speak Out against Racism and Discrimination in the Workplace Effectively

Following the events which unfolded in Sofia at the European qualifier on Monday, the Bulgarian prime minister has called for the head of the country’s football association to resign after England players were racially abused. Whether you are the leader of a country, an organisation, a team or a small business, you must be prepared to confront racism and discrimination wherever you find it. Sandra Smart, Company Director of Octopus Personnel, outlines how to speak out against racism and discrimination within the workplace.

Two women talking - Octopus Personnel Speak Out against Racism and Discrimination in the Workplace

You may have already faced racism and discrimination within your career or your own life and whether you encounter racism, antisemitism, unwanted sexual advances, or misunderstandings about LGBTQ lifestyles, marginalising others is, quite simply, poisonous for your business.

Racism and Discrimination in the Workplace

Discrimination can manifest in a number of ways in the workplace. For example, being assigned less desirable projects or tasks or be denied the training or mentorship that could help employees move up in the organisation. Other examples include lower salaries, denial of job perks, and fewer promotions.

In addition to these outright discriminatory practices, employees also often face micro-aggressions. These are defined as brief comments or behaviour that communicates negative attitudes towards a person’s ethnicity, sexuality, age, disability or gender identity. A micro-aggression can be intentional or unintentional. They may take the form of avoiding someone, excluding them from conversations or events.

Last night’s events were most certainly intentional, with targeted inappropriate language and gestures designed to malign and upset the players. As the world speaks out and condemns these actions, it is important to think about how you communicate around discrimination. Here are four ways you can speak out against racism and discrimination in your workplace.

Racism or Discrimination in any form is not welcome here

As a leader, you set the tone for your team. Do you have a clearly stated zero tolerance policy against racism, sexual misconduct and discrimination? Have all members of the team had time to review the policy? Is it clearly displayed within the workplace? Do your team understand why you are passionate about eradicating discrimination?

A poster showing all people are welcome - Octopus Personnel Speak Out against Racism and Discrimination in the Workplace

Teamwork and ensuring all members of the team are valued comes with clear guidance from the top. Build a work environment which values everyone, driving productivity through support. Let no-one be unclear about your intentions and expectations.

Speak Up against racism and discrimination

End the silence. If someone makes an inappropriate comment, be that at work, a company function or event, you need to think how you will respond. Thinking through your response before you are challenged when the actions of a group or an individual are racist, sexist or hurtful will mean you will feel more confident, calm and measured and ensure the right message is conveyed. When faced with inappropriate behaviour, the time for action is immediate: don’t let inaction condone discrimination.

A man man staring out across a staircase - Octopus Personnel Speak Out against Racism and Discrimination in the Workplace

Free Speech Doesn’t Mean Free Reign

Discrimination is a difficult topic, but explaining why something is offensive clearly is important and will put you on the path to resolving issues and changing behaviour, rather than a simple reprimand. As a manager, when talking to someone about recent racist comments, sexist remarks or unwanted sexual advances, a private leadership conversation is needed. A calm atmosphere and use of the first person “When I heard what you said…” or “When I saw what you did…” will help to ensure the situation doesn’t incite anger. Explain what the individual’s actions or comments meant to you in a way that’s clear and even-handed.

Depending on the circumstances, and your role, ask for support and discuss your approach and tone beforehand. Consider who could (and should) join you for this dialogue. The conversation must be a dispassionate retelling of the facts, followed by a first-person discussion of the impact. The conversation isn’t a debate, but an understanding that actions have consequences. Without becoming upset, own and explain your own feelings and, if possible, the feelings of the team. Were you hurt? Disappointed? Take a careful look at the impact of divisiveness—and ask for others to do the same. Ask for greater understanding around collaboration: because we are all better when we work together, without fear of harassment.

A team discussion in an office - Octopus Personnel Speak Out against Racism and Discrimination in the Workplace

Align dialogue and actions

I am not suggesting that confronting racism is not a difficult dialogue and that there aren’t many opportunities for disagreement. This is why it’s important to choose the right time, environment and to shut the door. Consider carefully the scope of your conversation. It is unlikely that you can convert or change the thinking of a racially insensitive person: a more realistic goal might be developing understanding about this issue and encouraging new behaviour. Understanding how words (and actions) can do harm—even unintentionally—can shed a non-confrontational light on unwanted actions. Whilst you can’t tell your team what to think, you can stop inappropriate comments or behaviour.

Beyond the moral implications of racism, racist remarks foster a hostile and offensive work environment. You need the advice of HR as you must be prepared to take disciplinary action where appropriate. Clearly state your expectations within the conversation, inviting appropriate action – or an appropriate departure, if needed. As a leader, you must speak out, , like the Bulgarian prime minister, and make it clear that offensive remarks are counter-productive. And you should take swift action when others feel otherwise.

Four people collaborating around a laptop - Octopus Personnel Speak Out against Racism and Discrimination in the Workplace

How can Octopus Personnel help?

We know you fully recognise the value of top talent. Those unique and diverse individuals that can drive your business forwards and boost the bottom line, but HR departments face a tricky task when it comes to ensuring a flow of continual talent into the business, and making sure they hire individuals who are suited to the job and the culture of the organisation. In the current buoyant jobs market, where employers are competing with one another for the most skilled and experienced staff, this becomes even more difficult.

Using Octopus Personnel to identify and attract talent, and negotiate terms, can relieve a huge amount of pressure. We can help you find the right people to drive your business forwards, bring them to interview, and secure their services within budget.

Robust and Ethical Recruitment

We have a robust approach to actively ensuring diversity, including in terms of age, ethnicity and sexuality, in our recruitment processes. For example, we ensure imagery and videos for job advertisements represent a wide range of ages and ethnicities. The wording of our advertisements focus on skills required, not unconsciously implying a specific age of workers, e.g. we won’t seek digital natives; we are specific about proficiency in certain digital skills or a proven track record adopting and mastering new tools.

A diverse workforce brings industry and business knowledge and a wealth of experience that helps your team to strategise and solve problems. We know that companies with women on the boards perform better, and that having an effective approach to equality in the business delivers financial benefits.

Infographic showing 4 Business benefits to using Octopus Personnel to enhance your recruitment

Excellent value for money and a money-back guarantee

Other agencies use a system of scaled percentages, which increase costs dramatically in line with high-value candidates’ starting salary. We offer a flat rate of 10% of starting salary across all permanent placements. We are dedicated to providing a first-class service and we are so confident in our abilities that we offer a unique 100% money-back guarantee if our candidates don’t meet your expectations.

Our service is quick, efficient and above all cost-effective! What’s our secret? We love what we do and we get a genuine kick out of changing people’s lives for the better and by helping our clients to grow and expand their businesses.

Have I convinced you? What have you got to lose?

At Octopus Personnel, we have years of industry expertise and outstanding relationships with our clients, understanding the ever-changing needs of their businesses. We are perfectly positioned within the market to guide you to the right employee who will drive your business forward. Call the office on 01747 825568 to discuss how we can help you or click here to find out more about our services.

Sandra Smart

About the author

I believe that recruitment is at the heart of a growing economy and that a different type of recruitment service, with honesty, efficiency and integrity at its heart, can benefit all. Octopus Personnel is the result of hard work, focus and commitment to that vision – to delivering consistently great results for our candidates and clients alike, as well as ensuring the agency is a vibrant, inclusive, inspirational place to work and develop rewarding careers.

Creating an Age-Positive Work Culture to Benefit Your Business

With more organisations than ever before facing the challenges of an older workforce, Sandra Smart, Company Director of Octopus Personnel, outlines how to build an Age-Positive work culture to benefit all and drive your business forward.

Woman interviewing older man - Octopus Personnel Age-Positive Work Culture

One in 25 of the UK workforce is now aged 65 and over, new figures from the Office for National Statistics suggest. It is the first time since comparable records began that the proportion of the workforce aged 65 and over has passed 4%. With even more over 50s likely to be in work than those under 30 in the next decade, employers need to act now to attract talented, experienced older workers to their organisations or they are likely to miss out.

The business case is for being an age-friendly employer is quite simple. Society is not homogenous. Most organisations recognise the value of having a diverse workforce, bringing together neuro-diverse employees with different life experiences, genders, ethnicities, sexual orientations and thinking styles. Age is no different. However, to benefit from these changes in the composition in the workforce, recruiting talent and experience rather than struggling to fill roles, employers need to proactively prepare to adapt to and support an older workforce.

How can you build an Age-Positive work culture which values and supports an older workforce?

Woman sitting on the beach - Octopus Personnel Age-Positive Work Culture

Older workers should be understood as an invaluable resource

The commitment, knowledge and experience an older workforce can bring to a workplace is not something to be underestimated. It’s not enough to have age friendly policies; it’s about building a living, working age-friendly approach to all aspects of the workplace that really enhances the working experience of older employees. Whilst they may feel daunting, there are some simple things you can put into place to prepare your organisation.

Man operating a saw - Octopus Personnel Age-Positive Work Culture

1. Flexible working is the future

Gone are the days of 9 to 5 working and everyone being in the same building at the same time. Now technology is enabling employers to think smarter and build a more agile, flexible workforce. Flexible working is often high on the agenda for people of all ages, and although certain age groups’ reasons for wanting it might differ, the principles are the same.

Implementing policies which support an older workforce in this way can be very well received. For example, a robust carer’s policy can benefit employees who find themselves having to provide care and support for a family member, whilst protecting the demands of the organisation.

2. Create a culture of lifelong learning

Business Titan James Cash Penney was onto something when he said, “Growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together.” A culture of lifelong learning is a powerful force for growth in any business.

Constant “upskilling” is no longer just a buzzword; it’s the new normal. Employees who constantly evolve their skill sets are able to take advantage of the latest technologies. This translates to better productivity and innovation. When you provide continuous training for employees, you also improve their loyalty by valuing their individual growth.

Taking advantage of the experience and skills of older workers can bring offers an inexpensive, accessible and often innovative approach to skill development. Many older workers are keen contribute to others’ development through mentoring programmes or expert sessions, and it is an excellent way to ensure they feel valued and respected within the workplace.

That culture, in turn, means that older employees will be keener to develop their own skills and to collaborate with younger members of staff to the benefit of all – especially the business! Therefore, everyone can improve their skills and drive the organisation forward; innovation, upskilling and technology are for all.

Woman in office drinking a cup of tea - Octopus Personnel Age-Positive Work Culture

3. Invest in and value staff wellbeing

With the media focusing intently on work-life balance and wellbeing, most employees are seeking an employer who takes their responsibility to support and enhance workforce wellbeing seriously.

Wellbeing at work is a complex concept covering all aspects of people’s experience of working life. Physical, psychological, social and financial wellbeing at work collectively allow employees to feel safe and healthy, able to thrive and maximise their potential, be they an older workforce or not.

A well-implemented wellbeing policy is a key retention tool for all members of staff and creating a healthy work environment forms a vital part of any people strategy. When employees feel healthy, included and motivated, they will deliver the very best outcomes.

A Healthy Work Environment

Maintaining a safe and comfortable work environment, both internally and externally, is a basic but hugely important requirement for employee wellbeing. As musculoskeletal (‘bad backs’) and mental health problems represent two massive work-related health issues, encouraging healthy behaviours and lifestyles – physically and psychologically – can help avoid huge costs from absenteeism, turnover and lowered productivity.

Chef making chocolates - Octopus Personnel Age-Positive Work Culture

Organisational Communication

Internal communication within the organisation, co-operation and teamwork, and all internal relationships that employees form with close colleagues – and indeed their line managers – are at the heart of wellbeing. The evolution and development of close relationships is common. Therefore, the best employers recognise people’s natural emotional need to bond and build quality relationships with the people around them, and know that company loyalty can be strengthened by such relationships. Staff outings, events and groups build morale – and build an Age-Positive work culture where everyone is valued! Workshops on areas which inform particular groups of staff, such as financial health, carers etc., are extremely valuable. Inviting local charities and employees themselves to present to the workforce can all build a culture of wellbeing.

Family-Friendly

Truly family-friendly organisations can also proactively support family and personal lives through work-family enrichment, by involving families in work-related social events and communications.

4. Create an age friendly culture

Clear policies and equality and diversity training, of which age-positive practice is very much a part, are vital for building an age friendly workplace. Run workshops for your managers on managing an older workforce. Ensure all managers attend recruitment training. You could also consider inviting all staff to take part in Dementia Friends training.

Man drinking coffee - Octopus Personnel Age-Positive Work Culture

How can Octopus Personnel help?

We know you fully recognise the value of top talent. Young or old, those individuals that can drive your business forwards and boost the bottom line, but HR departments face a tricky task when it comes to ensuring a flow of continual talent into the business, and making sure they hire individuals who are suited to the job and the culture of the organisation. In the current buoyant jobs market, where employers are competing with one another for the most skilled and experienced staff, this becomes even more difficult.

Using Octopus Personnel to identify and attract talent, and negotiate terms, can relieve a huge amount of pressure. We can help you find the right people to drive your business forwards, bring them to interview, and secure their services within budget.

Recruiting to build an Age-Positive Work Culture

We have a robust approach to actively ensuring diversity, including in terms of age, in our recruitment processes. For example, we ensure imagery and videos for job advertisements represent a wide range of ages and ethnicities. The wording of our advertisements focus on skills required, not unconsciously implying a specific age of workers, e.g. we won’t seek digital natives; we are specific about proficiency in certain digital skills or a proven track record adopting and mastering new tools.

An older workforce brings industry and business knowledge and a wealth of experience that helps them strategise and solve problems. We know they can mentor younger workers, often technically, but also in valuable interpersonal skills and teamwork. Older workers bring the equivalent of wisdom capital to a job, and we use our one-to-one candidate interviews to explore these skills so we can find that perfect match to drive your business forward and help you build an Age-Positive work culture.

Infographic - How can Octopus Personnel help you recruit

Infographic - How can Octopus Personnel help you recruit

Excellent value for money and a money-back guarantee

Other agencies use a system of scaled percentages, which increase costs dramatically in line with high value candidates’ starting salary. We offer a flat rate of 10% of starting salary across all permanent placements. We are dedicated to providing a first class service and we are so confident in our abilities that we offer a unique 100% money back guarantee if our candidates don’t meet your expectations.

Our service is quick, efficient and above all cost effective! What’s our secret? We love what we do and we get a genuine kick out of changing people’s lives for the better and by helping our clients to grow and expand their businesses.

Sandra Smart, Director of Octopus Personnel

Have I convinced you? What have you got to lose?

At Octopus Personnel, we have years of industry expertise and outstanding relationships with our clients, understanding the ever-changing needs of their businesses. We are perfectly positioned within the market to guide you to the right employee who will drive your business forward. Call the office on 01747 825568 or explore here to find out how we can help you.

Sandra Smart

About the author

I believe that recruitment is at the heart of a growing economy and that a different type of recruitment service, with honesty, efficiency and integrity at its heart, can benefit all. Octopus Personnel is the result of hard work, focus and commitment to that vision – to delivering consistently great results for our candidates and clients alike, as well as ensuring the agency is a vibrant, inclusive, inspirational place to work and develop rewarding careers.