“So, where are you from?” At first glance the question seems to be harmless and show interest. In contrast, the question “Yes, but where are you really from?” is almost always inappropriate because it is generally directed at individuals who aren’t considered to look “German”. “Questions of this kind imply that the individual doesn’t belong,” explains expert Dr. Monika V. Kronbügel (PhD.), CEO of Global DiVision.
What are the best ways to combat conscious or unconscious discrimination in the workplace?
“Diversity training is a very efficient tool,” recommends Dr. Monika V. Kronbügel (PhD.). It not only helps companies to improve communicative structures and relationships among employees, but also to exploit the full potential of teams and to develop a diverse recruiting strategy. In addition to this, such newly acquired competences also promote the company’s external image, thus winning new target groups for products and services.
Discrimination is, however, not limited solely to workers’ origins. Gender, age, physical disabilities, or sexual orientation can also result in disadvantages or marginalization. The so-called “DiversityParcours” method can be a good way to raise awareness of these issues. It shows employees what groups they themselves could theoretically be assigned to. This in turn encourages them to reconsider pigeonholing or entrenched perceptions.
“For diversity training to be efficient it is crucial that participation is voluntary. Otherwise employees may feel that they have been forced into it, which could be counterproductive,” explains Susanne Mueller, Global DiVision’s North America partner. “Language is another crucial element,” she continues. Asking what designations are discriminatory or what hidden messages we communicate is enormously important since our thoughts are not only the basis for words, but also vice versa – our language also influences our thoughts.
Most important of all is that companies implement cultures of diversity. The first step can be to sign guidelines or to introduce diversity competence in job profiles – both strong signals that discrimination is not tolerated.