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.
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.
How can you adopt a vocabulary that's inclusive and respectful of everyone? This EY exec, an advocate for people with disabilities, shares her insights.
"The difference between the right word and the almost-right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug." —Mark Twain
As diversity leaders, we understand that disability is just another kind of difference, like culture, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. We recognize that diversity is a valuable source of insight and adaptability, generating better business ideas and high-quality service. Differing abilities are a part of that healthy diversity. It's our business to promote inclusiveness throughout our organizations and to advocate for policies and programs that support it.
In building an inclusive culture, we're on the front lines and need to be visibly living our organizations' values every day. It's important that we set the tone not only in what we do and say, but how we say it—in formal messaging as well as everyday conversation. This is where even diversity leaders can get stuck.
Sometimes inclusive language can seem a bit cumbersome, but with a few simple changes each of us can make a significant difference—helping to promote an inclusive culture while setting an example both inside and outside our organizations.
Here are six ways never to talk about disabilities:
1. Never say "a disabled person" or "the disabled." Say a person or people "with disabilities."
Put the person first. A disability is what someone has, not what someone is. For instance, "mentally ill" is less respectful than "person with mental-health issues." "Retarded" is never an appropriate term. Say "intellectual disabilities" or "cognitive disabilities."
2. Never use the term "handicapped parking." Use "accessible parking" instead.
Handicapped parking is still in use (e.g., when referring to parking placards), though the word "handicapped" is offensive and has been virtually eliminated in most other contexts. Remove it from your organization's vocabulary completely by using the term "accessible parking." (It's also more accurate, as accessible describes the parking and handicapped does not.)
3. Never use the term "impaired." Use terms such as "low vision," "hard of hearing" or "uses a wheelchair" instead.
Though it may be used in legal contexts, the word "impaired" can be offensive, as it implies damage. Many people with disabilities do not see themselves as damaged, but simply as different.
4. Never say "hidden" disabilities. Say "non-visible" or "non-apparent."Many disabilities are not apparent, such as serious illnesses or chronic health conditions, sensory limitations, or mental-health and learning disabilities. When referring to these disabilities, avoid using hidden, as it has negative connotations, implying purposeful concealment or shame.
5. Whenever possible, don't say "accommodations." Say "adjustments" or "modifications."This can be tricky, as accommodation has a specific legal meaning and must be used in certain contexts, like policy or government communications. However, accommodation suggests doing a favor for the person who has a disability. An accommodation is a workplace or work-process modification made to enable an employee to be more productive. It is necessary and not a preference or privilege. The terms adjustment and modification capture this idea without suggesting a favor or special treatment, so are preferable whenever specific legal terminology is not required.
6. Never use victim or hero language; describe situations in a straightforward way.
Don't use language that portrays people with disabilities as victims, such as "suffers from," "challenged by," or "struggles with." Say "someone who uses a wheelchair" or "wheelchair user," not "wheelchair-bound" or "confined to a wheelchair." On the flip side, don't use heroic language when people with disabilities complete everyday tasks and responsibilities. People with disabilities don't see themselves as inspiring simply because they're going about their daily lives. We all have challenges—working around those challenges is not heroic, it's just human.
What Terminology Should I Use?
It's worth noting that even in the disability community (yes, that is how advocates for inclusion of people with disabilities refer to ourselves), different people are comfortable with different terminology. Some are fine with the descriptor "disabled," which is in common use in the United Kingdom. Others may freely use "impaired." However, as diversity leaders, it is our job to promote behaviors that make all people feel valued and included. Knowing that some people are offended by these terms, I feel strongly that the most inclusive course is to avoid them and adopt a vocabulary that feels respectful to everyone.
As champions of diversity, we have the opportunity—and the responsibility—to set standards for how our people, organizations and society speak and think about people with disabilities. By shifting our language, we can help shift perceptions and promote the culture of inclusion that is the backbone of healthy diversity in all aspects of life.
— Lori Golden, EY, Abilities Strategy Leader
Golden leads EY's internal initiatives in the Americas to create an enabling environment and inclusive culture for people working with disabilities.
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