Something doesn’t feel right, but it’s not yet discrimination. It’s more like being ignored by a supervisor or colleagues, or being denied training.
Natalie Holder-Winfield, founder of the management-training consultancy QUEST Diversity Initiatives, refers to the issue as micro-inequities.
“They’re small events that are hard to prove, like gestures, words, treatment and tone of voice,” she explains. They may not even be intentional, but they stem from an inherent bias against someone who is perceived as different. And they can be very damaging, she adds. Holder-Winfield, who is updating her book “Recruiting & Retaining A Diverse Workforce: New Rules for a New Generation” (First Books, 2007), says there are common categories of micro-inequities that include: the absence of informal mentoring, lack of quality work assignments and promotions, perceived underperformance, insensitivity, inability to recover from mistakes, isolation and being ignored.
While it’s human nature to gravitate toward individuals with inherent similarities, those connections in the workplace leave out people who are different because of race, religion, age, sexual orientations and so on. Those who are singled out, overlooked, ignored or otherwise discounted may experience inequities because of unchangeable characteristic, and they may initially think they are overreacting.
“This is an identity bias that occurs because we want to have conversations that are much more comfortable and common to us,” she says.
So what to do when you find yourself out of the loop? Don’t even think about throwing a pity party for yourself. Instead, Holder-Winfield suggests taking control. Here’s how:
• If you find that you’re excluded from after-work social events or meetings, don’t hesitate to ask a colleague if you can join. “By taking the lead and suggesting a place where the entire group can socialize, you will naturally show your colleagues that you are approachable,” she says.
• Watch your own reactions. If you think you don’t want to befriend your coworkers because they are different from you, you may also be expressing that indirectly in your actions or words.
• Ask for help when you need it. Remember that when you open yourself to learn from other people, they feel honored and will want to help you in the future.
• Find a mentor within your organization. Ask colleagues to recommend someone who is good at leading and teaching. Mentors open many doors and help your grow in a variety of ways.
• Try to be present in group gatherings, but don’t get caught up in office gossip.
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