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

DiversityInc's Webinar series is a recorded audio and video presentation based on empirical data gathered for The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity survey and uses the expertise of the DiversityInc Top 50 companies to detail their most effective strategies. Each diversity-management web features two executive presenters from DiversityInc Top 50 companies selected for their company's success in the subject. Each cultural-competence web seminar features one subject matter expert and one DiversityInc Top 50 company that has demonstrated success with this demographic.

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