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Fairness in the workplace

American society is slowly, but surely, moving towards equality in the workplace. In the past decade laws have been passed that prohibit discrimination in hiring, retaining and promoting employees based on race, gender, disability and religious beliefs. Although not all groups have been included yet, the movement towards a more just workplace is evident. Nowadays, almost every single employer will have the sign ?Equal Opportunity Employer? under the name of the company, especially when recruiting. However, even though companies have adopted these standards as a part of their corporate culture, not all people are able to fully appreciate and accept diversity in the workplace. Although there are many different issues to be considered, I believe that the most prominent issue is that of socialization ? the way people were taught and learned to interact with the society at large and its members. This issue has many various aspects that can help understand the difficulty of accepting diversity. These issues include unfair and outdated expectations of others, fixed views on certain issues, and unwillingness to admit that problems exist and that they need to be dealt with.

The concepts of expectations and fixed views intersect in a few places. Fixed views are not what one expects of someone, but how the person relates and perceives that someone. Strong views are often followed by expectations. For example if one thinks that someone else is a violent person, he/she will expect to see outbursts of violence. If one has been ?conditioned?, by which I mean that through interaction with society on has learned a particular view or behavior, to think that homosexual relationships are ?disgusting? or at least that they are not ?normal?, one will probably find difficulty with dealing with such instances in the workplace. Williamson, in his article ?Is this the Right Time to Come Out??, discusses a situation that a young homosexual employee faced at work. His boss was unable or maybe unwilling to understand the parallels of homo- and heterosexual relationships. In this particular instance, the employee had a chance to tell his employer how he feels. Unfortunately, there are man situations where homosexual employees are afraid of being ridiculed or made uncomfortable about their sexual preference. As the article mentions, Adam?s boss was not happy about the situation because he was afraid of what the ?conservative? clients would think. These conservative clients have the fixed views that I am referring to, and as long as people are unwilling to be open-minded, to change or soften their views, there will be no true equality in the workplace.

As one way of expressing opinions, people develop certain expectations of members of other racial/ethnical/gender groups. There are also expectations that are based on traditions and earlier way of life, some of which are outdated. By outdated expectations, I am mainly referring to the way men still view women. Schwartz cites a CEO who asks this question, ?Why would any woman choose to be a chief financial officer rather than a full-time mother?? Such view of women as primarily maternal figures puts them at a disadvantage in the workplace. Schwartz discusses two kinds of women: family-career oriented and career primary. Those women who choose to focus on their careers just as much as men do, are confronted with a negative and distrusting view from their colleagues. This is definitely not a problem exclusive to United States. When Ellen was working in Bahrain, a Muslim country, a taxi driver asked her how many sons she has. Ellen responded by saying that she does not have any. The driver immediately expressed his genuine sympathy, ?I am so sorry?, he said. This issue spans across various cultures, since many religions consider women to be mothers before anything else.

It should be the woman?s right to decide what she decides to focus on. It is important that women have a choice that can be made without any negative attention as a result of it. Schwartz mentions that while some think that career-family oriented women are not committed enough to their work, at the same time men also think that career-primary women are ?masculine?. This, of course, is nothing other than the fruits of the old-rooted stereotypes, which are not easily annihilated.

Women are not the only ones who suffer from societal expectations. In her article about the white male privilege, among with privileges of other groups, McIntosh mentions a disturbing privilege that white people enjoy. ?I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having my co-workers on the job suspect that I got in because of my race? Because a law was made to help equal out a situation, people seem to expect that most of the African-American employees were hired because of affirmative action. I have often heard such statements made by people in places that I worked for, ?Yeah, they probably hired him so we can pretend to value diversity or because of affirmative action?. This statement can be true in some cases, but it is not fair to expect that every single minority employee is less capable than someone else and was hired for reasons other than his/her merit. Immediately, a person with this view expects the new employee to be less skilled and educated, which is probably not true most of the time. Such outlook can cause jealousy and hostility and further complicate the problems of today?s workplace.

Finally, if all the above the things could be confronted, I believe that we would soon be enjoying a just and non-hostile working environment. However, the most difficult obstacle in removing the above two issues is the unwillingness to admit that those issues exist and deal with them. Some people might be afraid of lawsuits; it is understandable that nobody comes out shouting, ?I hate women, what are we going to do now??. However, if such problems exist, they will not be removed until they are confronted. McIntosh mentions in her article that men are unwilling to admit that they are privileged and that white people are unwilling to admit that as well. This can be difficult for those who did not have as many or any privileges. I believe that such behavior is the biggest obstacle to solving problems in the workplace.

Corporations should actively participate in the quest to make the working environment a better, less intimidating place. I believe that this goal can be accomplished through further development of diversity in corporations. Ellen won respect from men in Bahrain only after they started working closely with them. Hopefully, through closer interaction we can start addressing and changing certain views and expectations that will make the new improved corporations feel almost like Aristotle?s ?polis?.


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