Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, fear and misinformation has led to an increase in social stigma, bullying, discrimination, harassment and crimes against Asians and Asian businesses. The most recent anti-Asian attacks is a call to action for organizations to show their support for Asian employees and address anti-Asian discrimination and racism in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) condemned the recent acts of violence in a resolution to “combat all forms of harassment and discrimination against members of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) communities, and ensure equal opportunity, inclusion, and dignity for all in the workplace.” President Biden also announced new actions to advance safety, inclusion, cultural competency and belonging for AAPI communities, as well as health equity for Asian Americans related to COVID-19 treatment.
Implementing an ongoing DEI training program that addresses the challenges of marginalized and underrepresented employees is one of the building blocks of an inclusive workplace. Among the topics to address are:
Unconscious Bias and Microaggressions
Either favorable or unfavorable, unconscious bias occurs when people make judgments and take mental shortcuts based on stereotypes about someone’s race, ethnicity or other factors — often without realizing it. Microaggressions, rooted in unconscious bias, are everyday verbal and nonverbal slights or insults made to individuals of a marginalized group. Frequent comments and assumptions about Asian culture, food or names (“Where are you from?”) perpetuate stereotypes, affect recipients’ mental and physical health and can lead to discrimination.
The ability to understand and interact effectively with people from other cultures can help reduce racial and ethnic discrimination and strengthen workplace culture. Developing cultural competency starts with understanding one’s own culture and how it affects perceptions and attitudes toward people with different backgrounds, cultures and beliefs. As the workforce becomes more multicultural, organizations are recognizing the benefits of cultural competency on productivity, ideas, teamwork and communication.
Bystander intervention training prepares employees to recognize unacceptable behaviors and safely intervene — either during or after an incident. While each situation is different, teaching employees bystander intervention techniques and strategies creates a sense of collective responsibility that empowers employees to be engaged bystanders in preventing harassment. And training also reinforces the importance of exercising good judgment and taking action only when it’s safe to do so.
Managers and supervisors across departments need to understand their responsibility to avoid retaliation and even the appearance of negative actions toward employees who make a good-faith complaint of harassment or discrimination, or participate in an investigation. When employees feel their complaints will be taken seriously, and know that the law protects them from retaliation, they are more likely to speak up and report incidents of harassment and discrimination.
Organizations can respond to the recent wave of violence against Asians and Asian Americans by first listening to and showing support for Asian employees and then providing the resources and motivation to create a sense of belonging in which members of marginalized groups feel safe, valued and heard.
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