In the past few weeks following the race-related tragedies, including the murder of George Floyd and countless other Black Americans, massive protests in the U.S. and across the globe have cropped up to demand swift action and social justice. Businesses in virtually every sector have been quick to follow suit, releasing statements to both the public and their employees that they are committed to listening and having an ongoing dialog surrounding racism. But are they really listening?
A recent survey of 5,778 employees and leaders by LeadershipIQ revealed that only 29% of participants chose “Always” in response to the statement “Management at my organization listens to employee concerns about discrimination without blame or defensiveness.” More alarmingly, 19% of those surveyed say their leader “never” or “rarely” listens to discrimination concerns without blame or defensiveness.
Minorities aren’t feeling heard
When the data is further broken down by demographics, a pattern begins to emerge. Women who responded to the survey were significantly less likely than men to feel that management listens to workplace discrimination concerns without retaliation or defensiveness. What’s more, is only one in 10 Black employees felt management always listens to their concerns about discrimination. White employees were approximately 250% more likely to think that their superiors always listen to their concerns without defensiveness or retaliation.
The survey’s findings illustrate that the groups most vulnerable to discrimination in the workplace were the least likely to feel heard by their employers. More disturbingly, only 13% of Black employees believe that management would take meaningful action if they reported discrimination concerns – for white employees, it was 29%.
Subtle racism in the workplace
In today’s politically correct climate, overt forms of racism and discrimination are rare – though they do still occur. The Civil Rights act of 1964 made overt workplace racism illegal, but modern discrimination in the workplace comes in different guises that can have negative consequences for both employees and organizations. In a phenomenon known as aversive racism, many individuals who believe they aren’t prejudice have negative racial and beliefs they aren’t aware of.
According to the founder of LeadershipIQ, for leaders to listen effectively and make meaningful change, they must be willing to reexamine their beliefs when new data presents itself. As the study suggests, employers still have a long way to go when it comes really listening.