Diversity is one of the hot subjects in the workplace today.
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The presidential race underway as I write this is one of many microcosms of the race situation in the United States.
Despite the many advances in race relations, there are still those who refuse to support a candidate simply because of the color of his or her skin. This is something that may prove to be a point of tension in the workplace.
In order to make sure that people don't make stereotypical comments that can erode inter-office relationships, a manager must do certain things.
Don't Take Sides
In a small business, it is easy for the owner to get into close relationships with some of the people that he or she works with. When this happens, it is also easy for the business owner to believe the word of some associates over others. This is a fatal error in maintaining a diverse and harassment free workplace.
The business owner must maintain objectivity and take the matter seriously. Decisions must be made because of rationale and perspective from both sides of the situation. It is easy to believe those workers that you feel closest to, but as a leader, it is important to hear the entire story.
In these situations, the owner must also maintain an authority over their subordinates. If the business is small, emotions might take over and threaten to compromise your authority as a leader. Don't let this happen.
You must maintain a third person perspective in the situation and address any problems that may come up between your workers.
Do NOT Let it Fester
The worst thing to do is avoid taking action. As a leader, you must be prepared to make difficult decisions. If you are seen as listless or passive, you can lose your ability to make those tough choices. Be proactive in the management of workplace problems and they will occur less frequently.
If your subordinates see that problems are quickly and efficiently resolved, with the offending party punished accordingly, there may be more action taken by workers to keep the leader uninvolved in the situation. However, you don't want your workers to come to you with every little disagreement they happen to have. They are adults, and should be able to work out their differences.
The key, as usual, is having the ability to balance resolving conflict and running the business.
Implement Training and Make People Accountable
Training programs should be implemented to make sure that you are not liable for your employees' ignorance. You need to make an effort to educate and implement diversity programs that enable your workers to learn about workplace coexistence.
Also, they should be able to report problems without any fear of retaliation or punishment. Socially or professionally, retaliated for voicing discomforts should never be tolerated in the workplace. Your workers will be most productive when they are content, engaged and willing to go the extra mile to help your business.