The Law @ Work

Emotional Connection to Job Reduces Likelihood of Discrimination Complaints

by Amelia J. Holstrom

On September 17, 2014, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) held its third annual Executive Leadership Conference.  The conference was developed to provide EEO and HR professionals with the leadership skills necessary to continue excelling in their careers.  During the conference, a number of individuals presented on topics relevant to today’s workplaces.  This year, Mary Abbajay, president of Careerstone Group LLC, led a discussion addressing how employees with emotional connections to their jobs are less likely to file Charges of Discrimination.

In a nutshell, Abbajay’s message was a simple one: engaged employees are less likely to file Charges of Discrimination.  She went on to tell executives and HR professionals in attendance that it was their responsibility as senior leaders to foster a work environment that is positive and productive for all employees and that doing so may decrease the number of Charges they receive.  She advised that senior-level management must develop good working relationships with staff and communicate with them frequently in order to foster a relationship in which the employees are engaged.  Employees who trust senior-level management are more likely to address issues internally and approach someone to solve problems earlier, rather than later.

Although Abbajay’s message was targeted towards senior-level managers based on her audience, it is imperative that all members of management and supervisors in your workplace work to foster positive relationships with each and every employee.  Not only does it increase the chances that an employee will address a problem early and internally, rather than filing a Charge, but it also is more likely to lead to less turnover in your workforce.   Employees who work in positive and productive workplaces are more likely to become long-term, committed employees of their organizations.

You may be asking: how can managers and supervisors foster a positive work environment while still addressing performance and other job related issues?  Here are some tips for managing the balance:

  •  Engage all employees.  Managers and supervisors should be open and engaged with all employees.  A simple “how are you?” can go a long way.  Some employees complain that managers are friendlier with some employees than others.  Be sure that your managers are open and engaged with everyone.
  •  Communicate effectively.  Managers and supervisors must communicate their expectations to all employees in an effective manner.  Direct discussion with employees about company policies and honest discussions about violations of those policies when they occur, rather than weeks later, will help managers build a relationship with the employee, but also encourage the employee to modify his behavior.  If problems are addressed by management early, they are less likely to turn into larger issues.
  • Educate employees on their role in the company.  If an employee understands that he is an important piece of a larger puzzle, he is more likely to take ownership of his job and job responsibilities.  This leads to more productive and engaged employees.
  • Recognize employees for their positive contributions. All too often managers and supervisors only address problems with employees.  This can lead employees to feel as though they work in a negative work environment.  Those who recognize their employees positive contributions to the workplace are more likely to have an open and positive relationship with their employees.
  • Be available.  Managers and supervisors should be visible in the workplace and also available to employees.  If an employee has a problem and someone is not around, he may not bring it up until it is a bigger problem.  Let your employees know how to get in touch with you or whom to contact when you are not available.

These simple tips may help your company reduce the number of discrimination complaints filed against it.  Additionally, they will help foster a work environment built on trust and teamwork that will benefit your company in a number of other ways for years to come.

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