Skyline University Nigeria

Destabilizing effects of workplace discrimination on employees’ productivity

Discrimination in the workplace creates an uncomfortable and potentially dangerous work environment for the targeted employee as well as other employees.

Workplace discrimination is often assumed to be something that happens to only permanent or full-time employees.

But it is not peculiar to full-time employees alone. It happens to seasonals, casuals, interns and part-time employees too.

There are many different forms of discrimination, and they are all prohibited by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

The ILO had said in one of its report that workplace discrimination had remained a persistent global problem, with new subtle forms emerging.

The report said the new forms of discrimination across the world are cause for growing concern.

“This may be the most challenging task of contemporary society and it is essential for social peace and democracy. Every day, around the world, discrimination at work is an unfortunate reality for hundreds of millions of people,” the agency said in the report titled: “Time for Equality at Work.”

There are many different forms of discrimination, and they are all prohibited by the ILO.

Discrimination can be intended and involve disparate treatment of a group or be unintended, yet create a disparate impact for a group.

It could occur in several situations including denying certain employees of their compensation or benefits, paying equally-qualified employees in the same position different salaries, discriminating when assigning disability leave, maternity leave, or retirement options, denying or disrupting the use of company facilities and discrimination when issuing promotions or layoffs.

Employer’s actions

The adverse effect of workplace discrimination includes an action that is unlawful if it occurs for a discriminatory reason, a member of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Suleiman Olatunji Omilana, said on Monday.

According to him, the Fair Work or Workplace Act describes employers’ adverse actions to include dismissal of employees, injuring of employees in their payroll, altering employees’ position to their detriment, discriminating between one employee and other employees, refusing to employ a prospective employee, and discriminating against a prospective employee on the terms and conditions in the job offer.

He said: “Discrimination also occurs during recruitment and hiring process.

“The wording in job advertisements may discriminate against certain individuals or groups to dissuade them from applying at all.

“For example, a company seeking ‘men for construction work’ might be exhibiting gender discrimination.

“During interviews, the questions asked and the answers are sometimes used to discriminate against certain candidates.

“During the hiring process, a candidate might be given an offer with different terms and conditions than someone else would have received.

“A suitable candidate might also be overlooked for a position because the recruitment officer has his own opinion about the candidate. All that I mentioned here are classical cases of workplace discrimination.”

Discrimination vs harassment

People sometimes mixed up workplace discrimination and harassment.

Workplace harassment occurs when someone in the workplace mistreats another person based on their gender, race, national origin, sexual orientation or other prohibited category, in a way that falls outside the job description of the person committing the harassment.

While discrimination occurs when someone in the workplace treats different employees differently on the basis of the highlighted factors.

A human resources consultant, Layi Aboyade, further highlighted the differences between the two terms.

“Harassment could be viewed from sexual or racial perspectives. For instance, harassment is termed sexual harassment if unwanted behaviours are linked to gender or sexual orientation. In the developed nations, sexual harassment is described as unwanted conduct of a sexual nature or other conduct based on sex affecting the dignity of men and women at work.

“Racial harassment is when the behaviours are linked to your skin colour, race, cultural background and others. Discrimination is when you are treated differently (eg less favourably) because of your gender, race or disability.

“There is another term which people have ignored, that is bullying. Bullying is the common denominator of harassment, discrimination, abuse, violence and several others.

“Bullying and harassment (at work, in society, at school and at home) is a major cause of physical and mental discomfort,” the Managing Partner of Dicot Consult stated.


Effects on workers’ productivity

Discrimination in the workplace can have devastating consequences on the offender and the victim. However, not all discrimination is overt: subtle forms include limiting an employee’s training or forcing someone into early retirement with an enticing benefits package.

“When workplace discrimination is widespread, morale drops, trust is broken and, ultimately, the company’s bottom line is affected.

“When an employee is discriminated against, he often feels helpless and anxiety-ridden, and may suddenly lack interest in job responsibilities, career advancement or the company’s welfare,” a career counselling group, Career Trend, said on its website.

“An employee who feels like an outsider because of his religious beliefs or nationality might lose self-esteem and stop contributing ideas. His morale begins a downward spiral, which can result in absenteeism, disregard for others’ time and lack of motivation to complete assignments on deadline.”