Our country has recently witnessed an unimaginable display of hate. Eleven worshipers were killed at a Pittsburgh synagogue, bombs were delivered to prominent politicians’ homes as well as workplaces, and two shoppers were gunned down in a Kentucky grocery store. Our country is dramatically divided, and tensions are high.
The FBI defines a hate crime as a criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.
In 2016, the FBI tracked 6,121 hate crimes however, many claims go unreported. The Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates a more realistic number of 250,000 hate crimes per year from 2004 to 2015. As we have seen with sexual harassment, many victims choose not to report to avoid retaliation or simply because they feel their experiences will not be believed or taken seriously.
Americans spend almost half of their waking hours at work. In today’s polarized world, violent hateful acts can find its way into the workplace and employers have a duty to ensure the safety of their employees.
What can a company do to protect their employees and manage hate at work?
Take Action. If a threat has been made, take it seriously and investigate. Do not ignore hostile behavior and have a zero-tolerance policy towards discrimination. Management needs to be aware of what happens in the workplace and how employees, vendors, and customers interact with each other.
Review Policies and Educate Employees. Most companies have harassment policies as well as other policies addressing social media, violence, weapons, and security. Make sure your policies are up to date and that your employees understand them. Employees need to report incidents, but it is imperative they understand the process as well as their rights.
Increase Security. Employers have an obligation to provide a safe workplace. Depending on the environment and workforce, security can be handled in different ways. Ideas include installing security cameras, increasing lighting, or implementing safety training such as active shooter training. It is also important to establish emergency procedures and educate employees.
Promote Tolerance. Organizations thrive when diversity is at its core. Bias in the workplace can impact the corporate culture and can negatively affect employee well-being as well as the company’s bottom line. Problems are solved, and innovation occurs when people from different backgrounds bring their own unique strategies and ideas to the table.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said it best,“I have decided to stick with love …Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
As an HR professional, I would rather advise companies about the best ways to motivate their staff to their greatest potential instead of discussing ways to protect employees from hate crimes. Yet, when grandparents are killed while buying poster board for their grandson and people of faith are killed in their place of worship, it is hard not to think about what to do if hate enters our workplaces.
As a country and as individuals, we all must rise up against hate. We must be aware of its presence and work to extinguish it. Hate can become toxic and we have witnessed the results of this toxicity reflected in the news recently. To honor the recent victims, we must not tolerate acts of hate, small or large.