The power of diversity, dignity, and respect over discrimination #MondayMotivation

Oh, do I have some Monday Motivation for you!

Last Friday, I spoke at an HR conference about the EEOC’s latest enforcement trends. Part of the discussion addressed stereotyping. That’s because the 2017-2021 Strategic Enforcement Plan for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission focused on addressing discrimination based on employees’ perceptions of others. One example is when coworkers are not treated as well because of a perceived disability. Another  example ripped from the SEP is “discrimination against those who are Muslim or Sikh, or persons of Arab, Middle Eastern or South Asian descent, as well as persons perceived to be members of these groups, as tragic events in the United States and abroad have increased the likelihood of discrimination against these communities.”It’s the latter that segued the discussion in what some of us may know as the “bar rules.”

Bar Rules at Work

Bar rules go something like this: when you’re out with friends enjoying an adult beverage at a local watering hole, three subjects are off limits: (1) politics; (2) religion; and (3) race.

Technically, there are no “bar rules” at work. Still, many prefer to keep those three topics out of employees’ mouths to avoid problems, especially in what many of us have observed to be increasingly politicized workplaces since the 2016 election.

Now, I’m not attributing a politicized workplace to any one political party or person (ok, maybe I am). Either way, anecdotally, political chatter at work is way up. And, when politics is on the front burner, it may only be a matter of time before charged discussions on religion, race, national origin, or other “protected classes” may follow…on a slippery slope to a discrimination claim.

Bar rules at Work?

Well, I’ve buried the lede long enough.

Last week, there was an incident at the Air Force Academy in which racial slurs were written on the dormitory message boards of five black cadet candidates at the Air Force Academy Preparatory School. The hate speech was discovered on Monday, with one of the victim-cadet’s parents posting about it on Facebook on Wednesday. (Steven Losey at Air Force Times has the full story here.)

On Thursday, Lieutenant General Jay B. Silveria, superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy, addressed an audience of 4,000 cadets and 1,500 faculty members and military personnel. Over five riveting minutes, Lt. Gen. Silveria pulled no punches as he unapologetically censured the racist behavior (“If you can’t treat someone with dignity and respect, you need to get out.”) and advocated for a “better idea.”

A better idea.

That better idea is bringing people together for a civil discourse to discuss issues like Charlottesville and Ferguson. Together, he explained, we can emphasize the “power of diversity” and focus on workplace “values.” It goes something like this:

The power [is] that we come from all walks of life, that we come from all parts of this country, that we come from all races, we come from all backgrounds, gender, all makeup, all upbringing. The power of that diversity comes together and makes us that much more powerful. That’s a much better idea than small thinking and horrible ideas.

So just in case you’re unclear on where I stand on this topic, I’m going to leave you with my most important thought today: If you can’t treat someone with dignity and respect, then you need to get out. If you can’t teach someone from another gender, whether that’s a man or a woman, with dignity and respect, then you need to get out. If you demean someone in any way, then you need to get out. And if you can’t treat someone from another race or a different color skin with dignity and respect, then you need to get out.

You can view his full speech here. You can read the transcript here.

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