Whenever a human relations issue occurs within an organization, leaders are faced with how to appropriately address the matter. These can be sensitive scenarios, which require forward thinking statements to keep the organization focused on the tasks they are designed to perform. As a former Equal Employment Compliance Officer and African American subordinate in the workplace, I can attest to the fact that when issues of racism and discrimination occur, a statement from the leader or lack there of can significantly effect organizational moral and most importantly its ability to perform at optimal levels.
When there is no statement made to address (real or perceived) issues employees develop what I refer to as “selective interpretation.” Those who posses racist or ethnocentric views see the omission from the leadership as a “wink” meaning, “We agree with your feelings and this is our way of showing it.” Employees in opposition to these views feel that their leadership is complicit in the hostility towards them. Neither side may be accurate, but without a statement, which draws on its own rules, regulations, and policies against such activities, these occurrences are left to interpretation.
This is where the importance of having EEO professionals in the workplace reveals itself. Leaders should consult with these professionals whom they’ve hired as subject matter experts on such issues to assist them with crafting a statement, which reminds and reiterates organizational policies. When this step isn’t taken, employees are reluctant to perform at their best. They come to work simply for monetary reasons and are mentally checked out. As I’ve passed on from my own experiences, leaders don’t have to worry much about those who quit and leave the job – they need to worry about those who quit and stay! They will never perform at their best.
For public servants such as police officers and fire fighters the bottom line isn’t profits or pleasing share holders, it’s saving lives. For this reason, optimal performance isn’t a luxury it’s a bona fide workplace requirement.