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Facing Discrimination At Work? How to Tell & What to Do

Facing Discrimination At Work? How to Tell & What to Do

Are you familiar with the glass ceiling? It’s a term used to describe the obstacles that many women and members of minority groups face when trying to advance in their careers or professions. It’s no secret that historically, women as a whole have earned less, on average, than their male counterparts. No matter how much progress we have made in terms of equality in recent years, that fact has not changed.

However, what a lot of people may not know is that women are at risk of coming face-to-face with a lot more than just career advancement hurdles. Women are supposed to be protected by the U.S. Employment Equal Opportunity Commission, which enforces federal laws to protect women against gender-based workplace discrimination. But, we don’t live in a perfect world, and not all acts of discrimination are reported or even noticed. So, how can you tell if you’re facing discrimination at work?

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Discrimination Against Women In The Workplace

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to discrimination at work. Generally speaking, workplace discrimination typically occurs by way of sexual harassment, withholding promotions or bonuses, disallowing women from taking part in training opportunities or other work-related activities, and more.

Sexual Harassment At Work

According to the American Association of University Women, sexual harassment, in its most general form, is described as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.” That includes bribes for sexual activity, suggestive jokes, “pervasive displays of materials with sexually illicit or graphic content,” and more. Sexual harassment against a female isn’t always perpetrated by a male employer, as women can sexually harass other women.

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As noted by the AAUW, a one-time occurrence of sexual conduct or a single remark is generally not enough to create what’s known as a hostile environment. To argue that a woman is being sexually harassed and therefore is working in a hostile environment, proof of a pattern of offensive behaviors is typically required. However, just one severe incident of harassment can potentially be enough to qualify as a violation. The more severe the harassment is, the less proof is needed, especially if the harassment is physical.

Withholding Promotions Or Bonuses

Particularly in a workforce where physical ability plays a role in daily tasks, women can potentially get snubbed for a promotion for a job that requires physical strength. It can be assumed that, because she’s a woman, she’s not physically capable of successfully completing the job. This is another form of discrimination because it cannot be automatically assumed the job cannot be completed based on gender without allowing the woman equal opportunity to prove her physical abilities.

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Other

Out of fear of missing out on a promotion or bonus, a woman working for the government or for a large company might feel she has to hide a pregnancy because of the 12 weeks’ maternity leave women in these jobs are allowed under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Additionally, women may avoid telling potential employers about their desire to have children for the same reason. There have also been situations in which a female faces discrimination because of her physical appearance. Some potential employers may hire women they personally find more attractive, arguing that those women are “likely to bring in more sales,” according to Lisa Finn, a writer for Our Everyday Life. On the other hand, an attractive female may not get hired because the employer is worried about how men in the workplace would react to her.

Despite the glass ceiling mentioned before, a woman with the same job title as a man, with the same seniority and responsibilities, should be paid equally. Otherwise, she’s being discriminated against. Employers found to be guilty of such discrimination can be sued under The Equal Pay Act of 1963. Consequences for the employer might include fines and the requirement to pay back lost wages.

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What Can You Do?

If you believe you are the victim or have been the victim of workplace discrimination, you should keep track of every case in which you felt you were being discriminated against. You should contact your employer’s human resources representative and inform them of the issue. You can also file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but if they don’t find any proof of discrimination, the case will be closed. You then have 90 days to file your own lawsuit. There are several law firms that specialize in workplace discrimination and EEOC, such as Hutchison & Stoy, the “Warriors for Justice.”

Featured photo credit: salty_soul/Flickr via flickr.com

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Emily Hayden

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Last Updated on July 16, 2019

7 Powerful Habits To Win In Office Politics

7 Powerful Habits To Win In Office Politics

Office politics – a taboo word for some people. It’s a pervasive thing at the workplace.

In its simplest form, workplace politics is simply about the differences between people at work; differences in opinions, conflicts of interests are often manifested as office politics. It all goes down to human communications and relationships.

There is no need to be afraid of office politics. Top performers are those who have mastered the art of winning in office politics. Below are 7 good habits to help you win at the workplace:

1. Be Aware You Have a Choice

The most common reactions to politics at work are either fight or flight. It’s normal human reaction for survival in the wild, back in the prehistoric days when we were still hunter-gatherers.

Sure, the office is a modern jungle, but it takes more than just instinctive reactions to win in office politics. Instinctive fight reactions will only cause more resistance to whatever you are trying to achieve; while instinctive flight reactions only label you as a pushover that people can easily take for granted. Neither options are appealing for healthy career growth.

Winning requires you to consciously choose your reactions to the situation. Recognize that no matter how bad the circumstances, you have a choice in choosing how you feel and react. So how do you choose? This bring us to the next point…

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2. Know What You Are Trying to Achieve

When conflicts happen, it’s very easy to be sucked into tunnel-vision and focus on immediate differences. That’s a self-defeating approach. Chances are, you’ll only invite more resistance by focusing on differences in people’s positions or opinions.

The way to mitigate this without looking like you’re fighting to emerge as a winner in this conflict is to focus on the business objectives. In the light of what’s best for the business, discuss the pros and cons of each option. Eventually, everyone wants the business to be successful; if the business don’t win, then nobody in the organization wins.

It’s much easier for one to eat the humble pie and back off when they realize the chosen approach is best for the business.

By learning to steer the discussion in this direction, you will learn to disengage from petty differences and position yourself as someone who is interested in getting things done. Your boss will also come to appreciate you as someone who is mature, strategic and can be entrusted with bigger responsibilities.

3. Focus on Your Circle of Influence

At work, there are often issues which we have very little control over. It’s not uncommon to find corporate policies, client demands or boss mandates which affects your personal interests.

Gossiping and complaining are common responses to these events that we cannot control. But think about it, other than that short term emotional outlet, what tangible results do gossiping really accomplish? In most instances, none.

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Instead of feeling victimized and angry about the situation, focus on the things that you can do to influence the situation — your circle of influence. This is a very empowering technique to overcome the feeling of helplessness. It removes the victimized feeling and also allows others to see you as someone who knows how to operate within given constraints.

You may not be able to change or decide on the eventual outcome but, you can walk away knowing that you have done the best within the given circumstances.

Constraints are all around in the workplace; with this approach, your boss will also come to appreciate you as someone who is understanding and positive.

4. Don’t Take Sides

In office politics, it is possible to find yourself stuck in between two power figures who are at odds with each other. You find yourself being thrown around while they try to outwit each other and defend their own position; all at the expense of you getting the job done. You can’t get them to agree on a common decision for a project, and neither of them want to take ownership of issues; they’re too afraid they’ll get stabbed in the back for any mishaps.

In cases like this, focus on the business objectives and don’t take side with either of them – even if you like one better than the other. Place them on a common communication platform and ensure open communications among all parties, so that no one can claim “I didn’t say that”.

By not taking sides, you’ll help to direct conflict resolution in an objective manner. You’ll also build trust with both parties. That’ll help to keep the engagements constructive and focus on business objectives.

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5. Don’t Get Personal

In office politics, you’ll get angry with people. It happens. There will be times when you feel the urge to give that person a piece of your mind and teach him a lesson. Don’t.

People tend to remember moments when they were humiliated or insulted. Even if you win this argument and get to feel really good about it for now, you’ll pay the price later when you need help from this person. What goes around comes around, especially at the workplace.

To win in the office, you’ll want to build a network of allies which you can tap into. The last thing you want during a crisis or an opportunity is to have someone screw you up because they harbor ill-intentions towards you – all because you’d enjoyed a brief moment of emotional outburst at their expense.

Another reason to hold back your temper is your career advancement. Increasingly, organizations are using 360 degree reviews to promote someone. Even if you are a star performer, your boss will have to fight a political uphill battle if other managers or peers see you as someone who is difficult to work with. The last thing you’ll want is to make it difficult for your boss to champion you for a promotion.

6. Seek to Understand, Before Being Understood

The reason people feel unjustified is because they felt misunderstood. Instinctively, we are more interested in getting the others to understand us than to understand them first. Top people managers and business leaders have learned to suppress this urge.

Surprisingly, seeking to understand is a very disarming technique. Once the other party feels that you understand where he/she is coming from, they will feel less defensive and be open to understand you in return. This sets the stage for open communications to arrive at a solution that both parties can accept.

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Trying to arrive at a solution without first having this understanding is very difficult – there’s little trust and too much second-guessing.

7. Think Win-Win

As mentioned upfront, political conflicts happen because of conflicting interests. Perhaps due to our schooling, we are taught that to win, someone else needs to lose. Conversely, we are afraid to let someone else win, because it implies losing for us.

In business and work, that doesn’t have to be the case.

Learn to think in terms of “how can we both win out of this situation?” This requires that you first understand the other party’s perspective and what’s in it for him.

Next, understand what’s in it for you. Strive to seek out a resolution that is acceptable and beneficial to both parties. Doing this will ensure that everyone truly commit to the agreed resolution and will not pay only lip-service to it.

People simply don’t like to lose. You may get away with win-lose tactics once or twice but very soon, you’ll find yourself without allies in the workplace.

Thinking win-win is an enduring strategy that builds allies and help you win in the long term.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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