Diversity & Inclusion Means Zero Tolerance for Bullying

Diversity and inclusion can’t succeed in workplaces that allow bullying at any level. What can you do to prevent and stop bullying in your company and in schools, where it begins?

Diversity and inclusion cannot exist in a culture that allows bullying in any way. Bullying starts young–examples of bullying in schools with horrific results, especially suicides, are in the news every day. If bullies are left unchecked when they’re young, they grow up to be bullies in the workplace, which undermines diversity management’s impact.

Bullying in Schools

In all societies, people in underrepresented groups are the traditional victims of bullies. And it starts young. GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network)’s National School Climate study has found that 61 percent of students feel unsafe at school because of their orientation, 39.9 percent because of gender identity, 16.4 percent because of religion, 9.8 percent because of gender, 7.6 percent because of race/ethnicity, and 5.3 percent because of disability.

The impact of school bullying was shown in the recent documentary “Bully.” The impact on youth, their families and the loss of potential talent is devastating.

For resources to stop bullying in schools, visit GLSEN, stopbullying.gov, National Crime Prevention Council, End to Cyber Bullying Organization and Lady Gaga’s recently launched Born This Way Foundation.

Workplace-Diversity Implications 

When bullies go unchecked, they grow up to be bullies. They may hide it during the job interview and rise to leadership roles.

But they will continue to target and bully people, most frequently those in underrepresented groups. And instead of fostering an atmosphere where people can bring their whole selves to work and foster innovation, your culture will become one where engagement and retention are seriously undermined.

What You Can Do 

A strong diversity and inclusion strategy will give you safeguards to find and address bullying in the workplace, but you must ensure these practices are available consistently across your organization. Read Diversity & Inclusion Means ‘You Can’t Afford to Be Dismissing People’s Ideas’ to learn how this CEO’s commitment to diversity and inclusion increased innovation at Ameren.

  • Clearly State and Communicate Values: Mission statements and consistent values that are inclusive of every group must be visibly present on the website and in other prominent communications. Most importantly, they must come from the CEO and be supported by senior leaders. Read Ask the White Guy: Decision Making, Clarity of Values & What to Do When It Goes Horribly Wrong.
  • Resource Groups: Your resource groups are your first and best line of defense. Well-developed groups, with the ability to regularly communicate with senior executives, including the CEO, can tell you what’s going on and help create culturally competent solutions.  Senior executives who sponsor groups outside of their own demographics often become more inclusive leaders. Watch Diversity Web Seminar: Resource Groups.
  • Diversity Training: Mandatory diversity training that goes beyond compliance and addresses specific cultural-competence education is vital, especially for those who don’t “get” diversity and inclusion and may be bullies. It’s important to follow up and measure the success of training to make sure you have the right programs in place. Read Do White Men Really Need Diversity Outreach?
  • Mentoring: Cross-cultural mentoring allows individuals to get to know people from underrepresented groups and to “walk in another person’s shoes.” The bidirectional aspect of mentoring, especially for white, male executives, can reduce bullying through cultural education. Read Cross-Cultural Mentoring: How IBM, E&Y & Kraft Increase Diversity in Management.
  • Legal/HR Repercussions: If despite all your diversity-management efforts, instances of bullying occur, it is vital to address them quickly and severely. Understand what is legal and what is not, and work with your HR department to ensure nothing is being ignored. DiversityInc is holding a one-day workshop Sept. 13 on Managing Relationships Between HR & Diversity Departments, and bullying will be a major topic.

For more resources on diversity and inclusion awareness, go to DiversityInc.com/diversity-facts.

–Barbara Frankel

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  • Jodie Prewett

    Everyday I park next to an employee with bumper sticker the says “Preserve the White Race it is America’s most endangered species ” and another bumper sticker that states “keep our state white.” I am white and found this offensive. I reported the issue to my manager and the Diversity commitee. Nothing happened. I know this goes against our company’s vision and values and or diversity statements. What can be done about this type of activity in our parking lot at work?

  • Bullying starts with parents and other adult family members and friends who denigrate people with differences whether they are of a different race, ethnicity, ability, gender, orientation, etc. Children learn these attitudes from adults. When adults speak poorly of others or demonstrate discrimination it creates those beliefs in children and teaches them that it is OK to do the same.

    But it goes further. Religious leaders, politicians, media commentators–anyone in a position to speak publically, expressing their views about the value and rights of others or reinforcing stereotypes is just as guilty of the violence of bullying as the actual perpetrator.

    The best way to stop bullying is to start at the top by shutting down the rhetoric of the hateful people in positions of power.

  • I lead our company’s diversity council and have written several editorials in our newsletter about bullying and it’s adverse impact to diversity. It can’t tell you how many employees have thanked me for taking the stand on this growing trend.

    I firmly believe the school bullies of today will be the business bullies of tomorrow. If this growing trend is not addressed now, rest assured it will only exacerbate into a larger problem.

  • James Coles III

    And bullying comes in many forms. Consider a recent anti-bullying speech that bullied Christians. This non-sense must end even if you are not in the minority.

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