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Discrimination in the workplace occurs in many situations, but it isn't always overt. Subtle discrimination comes in the form of teasing a co-worker about being the company's "equal opportunity" or hiring a receptionist because she is the most physically attractive candidate. Employees see signs of discrimination in everyday activities, such as performance reviews, the hiring and firing process, and dynamics between co-workers, which deprive them of career opportunities and adversely affect employee status.
Low Employee Morale
An overall company culture of low morale could mean there is discrimination going on. Employees may be found doing more whispering than working, acting hostile toward each other, and shunning or refusing to work with certain groups of people. The reasons could be because of unfair promotions, favoritism or a lack of acknowledgement from supervisors. These actions hinder healthy workplace communication and leave employees feeling insecure, unappreciated and anxiety ridden.
A company's bottom line is affected by discrimination because unhappy clients might take their business elsewhere if arguing or missed deadlines are the norm. Money is also lost when a company is forced to finance team-building seminars to get employees motivated. Absenteeism and employee medical leaves rise when people feel discriminated against. The missed employees might be salespeople, for example, which means loss of revenue. In addition, when discrimination goes unaddressed, upset employees quit leaving the company no choice but to spend money recruiting and training new hires. (References 5)
Sometimes companies lose an upset employee or several unfulfilled employees at once due to discrimination. For example, a policewoman might quit if she's been passed over a few times for the sergeant's job despite stellar performance reviews. It may seem obvious to her that the police chief believes men inherently have better protection skills or he wants an "boys club" culture. Or a pregnant woman might quit when her baby is born because she's been pulled off significant projects as a result of her upcoming family obligations.
Lack of Diversity
Some signs of diversity discrimination are overt, such as an obvious elimination of one sex from the workplace or age discrimination. If an older employee has a long track record of good work, but suddenly is being written up for minor infractions that younger employees get away with, an employer may be filling his file with information that can eventually justify a demotion or firing, reports the website AgeRights.com. Another sign is an employer withholding training from someone with a disability. The discriminatory boss could have lower-competence expectations and therefore not want to invest in training.
A red flag goes up when an employee consistently misses work, fails to complete assignments on time and finds excuses to leave projects that were once rewarding. Signs of sudden reduced productivity in an otherwise great employee could mean members of a team are excluding him from important meetings or he is intimidated because seasoned workers have begun making jokes about him.
- Illinois Business Law Journal: Plug the Leak -- Employee Turnover -- A Consequence of Discriminatory Behavior?
- Public Entity Risk Institute: Discrimination and Harassment in the Workplace -- Five Essential Strategies for Smarter Risk Management
- AgeRights.com: Warning Signs of Age Discrimination
- CV Tips: Gender Discrimination at the Office -- How to Recognize the Signs
- i-Sight: The Warning Signs of Workplace Harassment and Discrimination
Based in Los Angeles, Lisa Finn has been writing professionally for 20 years. Her print and online articles appear in magazines and websites such as "Spa Magazine," "L.A. Parent," "Business," the Famous Footwear blog and many others. She also ghostwrites for mompreneurs and business owners who appear regularly on shows such as Ricki Lake, HGTV, Carson Daly and The Today Show.
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