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The “Over-Qualified Bias”: What does this mean to employers and candidates?


MP900443225[1]Evelina Silveira, President, Diversity at Work in London,co-author  The No-Nonsense Guide to Workplace Inclusion

The topic of implicit bias has become increasingly popular in diversity and inclusion discussion circles.  Racial, gender, ability, age, cultural and other biases often play a part in deciding whether a  candidate is interviewed, offered, retained and promoted in a job.  Have you ever taken into account that an “over-qualified” label can also have serious ramifications for both your organization and the candidate?

With global unemployment as an epidemic, it naturally makes sense that many applicants may apply for work they have done before, with ease and for an extended period of time.  When these individuals then go to apply for a job which  is similar to what they have done before they are considered “over-qualified” and thus overlooked.  When employers go the “over-qualified” route, they believe that this is a nice way to let applicants down; telling them in a nutshell – “you are too good for this job”.

Next time you consider dismissing an applicant because they are “over-qualified’ it is worth reflecting on the following points:

  1.  The candidate applied for the job and this means they are interested just as any other.
  2.   You may think they are overqualified but they might feel otherwise.
  3.   They may be fine with lateral moves – not everyone wants to climb the corporate ladder.
  4.   They are looking for a less stressful job that they can balance more easily.
  5.   They have outside interests which they may want to devote more energy; and that is why they have chosen to apply for a job which they can perform easily.
  6.   An overqualified candidate can be your best asset. They can bring industry experience which can help your organization soar.
  7.   Do you want to eliminate a candidate from the pool because you fear they will take your job?
  8.   Different people approach work differently. This means that the candidate may find a new way of doing the work that will make it more stimulating and thus more inclined to stay.
  9.   You may be getting more value for their work.
  10.   Over-qualified is a label associated with mature workers. Could you be prejudicing the employment of mature workers?
  11.   Not all over-qualified people demand high salaries which is an assumption that is made all to often.

Before you think a candidate will be “bored in a second and gone in a minute” try some probing questions in the interview to determine whether the risk is high.

  1.   Where do you hope to be in 2 years?
  2.   What are you hoping to learn in this job?
  3.   What motivates you at work?
  4.   What is the ideal job for you?
  5.   What are you looking for in a job?

You may find the job is a perfect match for the candidate you have slotted as “over-qualified”.  There is no guarantee anymore that an employee is going to stay with a company for 10 years.  But realistically, job seekers are not doing a lot of job hopping when there are few options to go to.  If you are concerned their skills are not adequately being used asked them for suggestions.  With work experience under their belt they may make a fantastic mentor which is an exceptionally good way to recognize their value.

 

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The Guide to Workplace Inclusion


Preview and Purchase at www.yourdiversityatwork.com/ebook/

Read  below what others have said about our book:

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ENDORSEMENTS:

This is an important and timely book for those who want more inclusive workplaces. It moves seamlessly from concepts and terminology and translates them into practical and actionable ideas. All readers, no matter where they are on their diversity and inclusive journey, will find something valuable in this book. Evelina Silveira and Jill Walters have created an impressive resource that includes examples of promising practices from across the globe. This should be every HR professional’s companion!

~Ratna Omidvar, executive director, Global Diversity Exchange, Ted Rogers School of Management, Ryerson University

The No-Nonsense Guide to Workplace Inclusion provides a thorough and engaging roadmap of the journey toward organizational inclusion. The authors write from a position of rich, credible experience, with the result that this Guide can help companies capitalize on opportunities and skirt problems on the road to fuller inclusion of an increasingly diverse workplace. Filled with examples and evidence-based solutions, this Guide is a valuable tool for any organization working on building and strengthening its culture of inclusiveness.

~Alison Konrad, PhD, professor of organizational behaviour, Ivey Business School, London, Canada

Managing diversity and creating inclusive workplaces can seem like a daunting challenge for many organisations, but Evelina and Jill have produced a really accessible, highly practical guide to help organisations get going. What we particularly liked was that it was packed full of real examples and illustrations and lots of useful links and tools.

~Tracy Powley, director, Focal Point Training and Consultancy Ltd, United Kingdom

Because inclusion is one of the core values of the USTA, it is important for me to lead, motivate and work well with individuals of diverse backgrounds, capabilities and interests in order to achieve the outcomes we’ve set for ourselves. This book is a great resource for any organization looking to create a successful culture of inclusion.

~D.A. Abrams, chief diversity & inclusion officer, United States Tennis Association/ author, Diversity & Inclusion: The Big Six Formula for Success

This book goes a long way in addressing the systemic discrimination faced by the LGBTQ2 community in the workplace. It tells you what you need to do and gives you the resources to do it. It makes it easy for any workplace to become more inclusive in their hiring, recruitment and retention practices. I highly recommend it for every workplace.

~ Deb Al-Hamza, past president, Pride London Festival/ diversity social worker, Children’s Aid Society of London & Middlesex

I think this book is very comprehensive! There is very valuable information from ‘Foundations for creating an Inclusive Business Environment’ to ‘Best Practices in Diversity.’ I see the value for small to medium businesses that lack a dedicated human resources professional or lack the experience with implementing policies and procedures to promote an inclusive environment; however, larger businesses can also benefit greatly from the examples, detail and strategy offered. I will continue to visit many of the resources offered in the future and have made note of some of the examples.

~Lesley Oliver, diversity & accessibility coordinator, Equity & Human Rights Services, University of Western Ontario

The book is strategic, concrete and to the point. The various examples make it relevant to readers and practical. I also like the fact it is rooted in personal experiences and takes a holistic approach. The book makes one reflect on what is not obvious, helps avoid assumptions and discusses unconscious bias.

~Magali Toussaint, international career and cross-cultural coach/ diversity professional, Netherlands, http://about.me/magali.toussaint

 

 

 

 

“You Just Don’t Fit In!”


By:  Evelina Silveira, President Diversity at Work in London Inc.  Publisher, Inclusion Quarterly

The interview has ended and you turn to the other members of your selection team and say: “He wouldn’t fit in” and they agree, passing over this candidate in favour of a less qualified one. You site all kinds of reasons like: “he is too old”, “we want people who will be fun to work with and he seems too professional”, he seems to know more than we do”, and his cultural dress wouldn’t fit the corporate image we’ re trying to project. All of these are poor excuses for turning down a candidate especially if they are qualified for the job. Telling someone “they don’t fit in is a proclamation of personal bias. Period. The ideal staff person cultivated in your head does not match the person sitting in front of you. Perhaps you were looking for a man? Someone who is of the same race as you? Or a person who doesn’t have a disability?  Were you specifically seeking a straight candidate?  You wanted someone under the age of 40?  A person who thinks like you? Someone who is less intelligent and won’t challenge you in any way?  Or who seems to lack confidence?

I remember getting hired for a job when my manager was on holidays. Figuring out that she would not want to consider me for the job because of my experience, I later learned the selection team strategically held the interviews while she was away. I was 35 and she was used to working with young women who were fresh out of school. Having been through the trenches of the not-for-profit world, I was full of enthusiasm and ready for the challenge of re-energizing a fledgling program. Introduced to me after coming back from her vacation, she declared: “I wanted someone who was younger and who I could mould”! Can you imagine how I felt? Clearly, I did not “fit” her ideal image of the staff she wanted to have, even though there was absolutely nothing wrong with my work.

Recently, my friend recounted a similar situation about an interviewer. Noting that she liked having young energetic staff, she  conveyed she was impressed by his many years of experience, but  added: I just need to know that you will fit in, because everyone fits in here and I am not so sure about you”. He thought it was an odd comment to make, but decided that he would just forget about it. After getting hired, in his first week, his boss called him into her office and had some peculiar personal comments about him that had nothing to do with his work. He’s a rather introverted man who is reserved until he gets to know people.  She said: I am really not sure you are fitting in”. You keep your door closed and you are not really interacting much with the staff”. You seem really unsociable!” B. had his door closed to block out the noise to accommodate his disability, ADHD.  This was mentioned  during his interview. While he was friendly to all staff,  he wasn’t hanging around in the hallways or in their offices gossiping as so many others were. He had a work ethic! Apparently, that was why he “wasn’t fitting in”?
If you are making hiring and retaining decisions not based on a person’s ability to do the job, but on something about them you don’t really like, (which is really what “not fitting in” is all about) this is a bad move that could end up costing you a bundle in legal fees.

As an employer you could easily be playing with fire when it comes to human rights, legislation protecting people with disabilities in the workplace and laws against bullying and harassment.

Hiring someone because they are the best person to do the job is always the right decision and having standardized documentation to support all phases of the hiring process is the way to go.

Next time, you think “that person doesn’t fit in”, challenge yourself to look at what they do bring to the workplace instead of imposing unnecessary superficial expectations on them. Take the time to understand what is happening for them. After all, a good leader makes everyone feel included no matter how different they are. It is up to you to help them “fit in” and be accepted and respected.

Actions You Can Take To Increase Intercultural Understanding in the Workplace


By:  Evelina Silveira,  President, Diversity at Work

1. Start up a Diversity Book Club or Discussion Group    You can take turns assigning a reading which is pertinent to your work and designate a regular meeting time for your discussions. Tailor it to your industry and the specific knowledge you would like to gain.
For example:
Indian-Style of Leadership – This could help organizations who have a number of New Canadian Indian employees gain an understanding of the differences in leadership style in India. It can give leaders an awareness of what some of the challenges these employees may have based on their previous work experiences and help them become more acclimatized to a Canadian workplace.
Cultural Differences in the Way Disabilities are Communicated. The way cultural groups talk about disabilities tells us a lot about their values and how people with disabilities are treated in their communities.
Plagiarism Around the World – Understanding how different countries feel about and define plagiarism is important in preparing international students for post-secondary education.

2. Spearhead Employee Resource Groups These groups can provide valuable information to advance the goals of your organization. If you happen to have a New Canadians ERG, it can be drawn upon to provide education to the rest of the employees and make suggestions for program development and provide insight into new markets.

3. Infuse Cultural Tidbits Into Existing Vehicles of Communication Whether you have an intranet, a regular newsletter or hang up posters, don’t miss out on an opportunity to encourage cultural learning. What about your staff or departmental meetings? After all, when we learn about other cultures, we learn a lot about ourselves!

4. Examine Your Corporate Social Responsibility Initiatives Is there a way you can increase your interactions with some of the major cultural groups in your community? Volunteer at a settlement agency? Be a mentor? Consider sponsoring cultural events.

5. Increase or Begin to Offer Student Placements/ Co-ops Work with local agencies serving diverse clientele and post-secondary institutions to bring diverse workers to your organization. You will be amazed at how much you learn from the experience!

6. Take a Cultural Competency Inventory Ask employees if they have: knowledge of a second language, experience from work abroad and cross-cultural education. Having this information handy can be a real help when you are considering the appropriate people for foreign assignments or need some emergency assistance with a culturally diverse client who you are having difficulty communicating

Creating an Employer Brand to Attract New Canadians and Generation Y


Three Smiling Businesswomen

An excerpt from Diversity and Inclusion on a Budget:  How to have a more engaged and innovative workforce with little or no dollars written by Evelina Silveira and Jill Walters.

Let hard-to-reach groups know that there’s an opportunity for employment with your organization by showcasing a broad spectrum of employees in your company literature and on your website. Let your employees know what your goals are in terms of a representative workforce, and that you value their suggestions and help. Ask if they would be willing to share their history with the company. This is a great way to demonstrate that you can be an employer of choice for diverse applicants.

Here’s how to do this:
–  Include the employee’s picture and history with company
–  Post a video on your site
–  Use a written profile, if your budget is really tight

The employees that you include in your staff literature and on your website should represent a cross-section of departments and available positions. If you are confused as to where to begin, bank websites are really great at creating an employer brand, specifically the Royal Bank of Canada (www.rbc.com).

Include employees who have held a number of positions within the organization and have advanced through the company. This demonstrates that there is equal opportunity for all. Note any committee involvement, special assignments, skills or expertise they have acquired as a result of working for your company.

These mini-profiles, highlighted on your website and in your literature, go a long way in promoting your company’s image as an employer of choice. Brag about it! Don’t hold back and be humble! Remember, labour shortages are starting to occur in many sectors. Stand out and let it be known who you are as a company, and what employees can expect from working for you.

It’s probably an odd analogy but think about your company as a potential date. If your company was on the dating scene, what attractive qualities would it promote? What could it offer? Why should a job seeker be interested in you? What could it gain from having you as an employee?
With this in mind, think about all the areas in which your company supports its employees, and include those details on your site. For instance, younger workers are really keen about seeking out employment with companies that are socially responsible, environmentally friendly, flexible and interactive. Having a pool table might be a bonus. Include this information!

Do you have an on-site day care? Flex-time opportunities? Cross-training? A mentoring program? Employee Resource Groups? Prayer rooms? Adaptive technology? A women’s leadership group? On-site smudging area? Gym? Pool table? English as a Second Language classes? Pets at  work? All these programs and services demonstrate that an employer supports and cares about the employees; their physical, social, spiritual and psychological well-being, and their need to succeed professionally. List them!

Consider asking those employees with more seniority about the special perks and selling points of working at your organization. Include them on your on your promotional materials as well.

 

 

 

Pride Is Not For Everyone


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Written by:  Evelina Silveira, President, Diversity at Work in London Inc.

Change is often a good thing. When it comes to equal rights for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered groups, increased awareness and advocacy has contributed to their greater inclusion in the workplace and in our communities at large.

The Pride Parade in London is not the raucous as it is in other cities notably Toronto. Just like everything in London, Ontario it is far more subdued and conservative focusing more on family, friends and allies and less as a spectacular show or tourist attraction.

Pride is about honesty, sexual expression and having a “safe space”. The parade and its other events support this freedom. But Pride is not for everyone, and participating in these events is  a choice. Agencies and businesses alike often exploit this event to advance their strategic or advocacy agendas with little thought into what it represents and who the right people should be to participate.

My business had a booth a few years ago at Pride in London, and I had a number of disturbing observations.

Arriving early in the morning, I began to set up my booth, with employees from various large and multinational corporations, falling closely behind. Setting up their tables and fleeing for the rest of the day, they only came back at the end when everything was over and ready to pack. Merely, leaving brochures and business cards, there was no intention to engage with the crowd. Yet, I surmised that the representatives were from companies who placed hundreds and thousands of dollars in sponsorship but did not have the decency to stick around. That smacks of a phony commitment to LGBT in my books!

And let’s not forget the young man in the booth next to me who was selling phallic-like hats and similar paraphernalia. Every half an hour or so he would reach over to his girlfriend and start kissing her and more. Do you suppose he might have been a little uncomfortable with attending a gay event? With all of the other opportunities one comes across in a day to safely express one’s heterosexuality, was it so necessary to do so in an event that seeks to stamp out heterosexism? I think not. As they say: “Get a room!”

Finally, a New Canadian spoke to me about the service he was getting at a local agency. He was really pleased with how they were trying to get him out of his house and make him more sociable. He recounted how he was “invited to a ceremony” in which “he was part of a parade” and given “a colourful flag”. The event was Pride in London. The man was not gay. He was a married man from the Middle East and a devout Muslim. He had no idea what he was attending. This televised event could bring a lot of grief for him. What would his family say if they see him? What might his reaction be when he finds out what he attended? Inviting clients to attend Pride Events without fully disclosing its meaning is simply: disrespectful, dishonest, irresponsible, culturally and religiously insensitive. Numbers are not everything!

Pride events often take place on weekends and evenings. Just because you don’t want to be a part of the Pride event doesn’t mean you don’t support LGBT rights. You may prefer to have stricter boundaries between your work and personal time. Additionally, if employers provide no  compensation for attending these events to support agency goals through pay or time off, they should not expect employees to take time away from their existing schedules to do one more thing for their job. Lack of participation should not be interpreted as you don’t care about LGBT rights. It could simply mean that you don’t like attending parades or that you really are pressed for time.

After all, when you compare how abysmal the attendance at Women’s Day events is: Do we interpret this as an expression of our Community’s disinterest in women’s rights? I don’t think so. Some people have different ways of showing support and advocacy. That needs to be respected.

Next time you think about having your company be a part of Pride Events, ask yourself if you are sending the best representative. Give employees a way out without judgement. If they go and feel uncomfortable, they may end up staining your corporate image like the guy in the booth who was compelled to display his heterosexuality. Be honest with what the event represents and if you plan to invite New Canadians to participate, you must take extra steps to ensure cultural sensitivity. We need to be mindful that in a good part of the world, openly gay men are still murdered, tortured and imprisoned. Going to a Pride Event may be a big leap that they are not ready to make as of yet.

 

Individual Versus Group Rights: The Diversity Challenge


Evelina Silveira, President, Diversity at Work in London

 

Depending on where you work, speaking foreign languages on the job can open up a big can of worms.    While it is an individual’s human right to do so, it can create huge issues of mistrust and cliques which can ultimately lead to racism.  No where is this more pronounced than in the manufacturing sector which is often fuelled by immigrant labour.

 After completing a recent sensitivity training session with a worker who was accused of making insensitive remarks to a group of foreign language speakers in the lunch room, I realized how complex and divisive this topic can be.   The situation becomes intensified when the workers are fluent in English but choose to speak another language over breaks and in their lunch room.   

 When my parents came to Canada in the 1960’s they did not know English and there weren’t any supports for people like there are today.  But English language fluency is much higher these days than in the past for several reasons.  With stricter health and safety standards workers must be more fluent to understand the workplace hazards.   The Canadian government has a fluency standard for immigration and there are more free programs for New Canadians to access to learn English than ever before.

 Breaks are a time to relax.  When you are not completely fluent in English, speaking it during the day becomes very tiring.  It makes sense that you don’t want to continue to make the effort because you need to refuel for the rest of your shift.  But, what if you are fluent in English and choose to speak another language during your lunch hour or breaks?  Indeed you have the right to do so, but this does not always mean it is the best choice and without consequence?  

 In Canada we also have the right to ask for religious and cultural accommodations in the workplace.  But is it always the right thing to do?  You can argue that it is “your right” but sometimes our individual rights clash with what is good for the group.  What if your team has an important deadline to meet and you must leave early from work to accommodate a religious obligation and they really need your help?  Are you going to leave and hold them completely responsible for finishing the task?  This may be your right to do so, but how are your co-workers going to feel about you tomorrow?  It all depends.  For example, did you do whatever you possibly could in advance to help them with the project? Might you be available in case of an emergency? 

 A key component missing from the dialogue on exercising individual rights in the workplace is the impact that it can have on your co-workers.  Creating exclusive lunch rooms segregated by language and shrugging off workplace responsibilities because of cultural/religious obligations do not make a recipe for harmonious  interpersonal relationships.   

 When we exercise our individual rights in the workplace we must also consider the impact it may have on our fellow co-workers and do what we can to alleviate the burden for them.  

Quick and Easy Ideas for LGBT Workplace Inclusion


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Evelina Silveira, President, Diversity at Work in London Inc.  Author, Diversity and Inclusion on a Budget:  How to have a more engaged and innovative workforce with little or no dollars.

Pride Month is coming up and now is the time to take a look at what your organization is doing to create workplace inclusion for lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgendered employees.  Even though I am a big supporter of LGBT inclusion in the workplace and in the community at large, sometimes I find myself stumped at what can we do in our organizations to advance the cause?  I figured that there were other people out there who likely feel how I do, but don’t know where to begin.  I did some research and I came up with a few ideas below that are really quite easy to do.  You don’t have to have a big budget, but you will see that these ideas will no doubt contribute to a more caring, engaged and productive workplace.

  • Don’t assume everyone is straight.
  • Remember to communicate a zero tolerance policy that inappropriate comments or jokes will not be allowed.
  • Keep in mind that LGBT employees often have children, spouses and partners. Show interest in their lives as well.
  • “Coming–out” is usually a risky thing to do in the workplace. When someone shares this with you, thank them for their trust in you and honour their need for privacy.
  • Convey verbally and in writing that professional development and promotional opportunities are solely based on merit.
  • When you are embarking on diversity and workplace inclusion training remember to include LGBT content.
  • Include any policies or benefits to LGBT employees on your website as you would for other groups. In the case of a global operation, it is important to let employees know how LGBT company practices and societal approaches abroad may be different if a transfer or travel is involved.
  • Don’t overlook LGBT causes when you are looking for outreach opportunities in your community. Considering the prevalence of bullying and higher levels of suicide among LGBT youth, these groups could use more resources.
  • Send out a Happy Pride Month message in your newsletter, intranet or other form of communication, just as you would with any other special month.
  • Ask employees if they have any ideas to improve LGBT inclusion in the workplace or marketing/customer service efforts to this population. These questions should be posed to your employees in general and not singling out LGBT in your organization.

 

If you would like more easy and low-cost ways to make your workplace more inclusive, consider purchasing our eBook, Diversity and Inclusion on a Budget  at http://www.yourdiversityatwork.com/ebook/ .

 

 

Tips for Avoiding Subconscious Bias In the Hiring Process


Evelina Silveira, President, Diversity at Work in London Inc.   Publisher, Inclusion Quarterly.

Let’s face it — we are human!  But when it comes to equitable hiring practices, our “humanness” can get in the way of hiring the best candidates.  There is a growing body of research that says that we are more likely to hire attractive people for certain jobs based on their appearance and not their qualifications.  Research shows that even small children think that people of colour are less trustworthy and not as friendly , and these biases continue on into adulthood and influence hiring practices.

The unfortunate reality is that the best people are often not chosen for a job because our subconscious bias gets in the way.

As a small business owner, I am conscious of this now more than ever.  I want to hire the best people, because if I don’t , I lose money and the reputation of my business.   Good people make me good as well. Business owners see and immediate connection with the bottom-line and are no doubt more likely to choose qualified people than looking for only “fit”.

It would be so easy if more people felt this way but they often don’t.   That’s why we need to build in processes to help reduce the occurrences of bias. When it comes to fair hiring practices, the key word is “structure”.  Structure allows for all members of the hiring committee to keep on track.  Problems arise when committee members “go off the script”.

Here are some tips to support the integrity of your hiring processes.

Check you biases at the door.  Remember the focus needs to be on skill rather than “fitting in”. If your goal is to hire “someone who will fit into the organizational culture” you will undoubtedly hire people who are the same as the rest and not necessarily the best employees.  Certain cultures and age groups and those with a diversity of thoughts and opinions, will be out of the running. Sometimes interviewers are afraid to hire the best because they fear losing their job to the candidate. But hiring the best people is a good indication of a progressive leadership team.

Map out your hiring process.  It is a good idea to use a flow chart or another kind of chart to identify who will be responsible for each stage in the process. Having a visual to work from will help you to see what links may need strengthening to increase the fairness of the process.  For example, one way to reduce beauty bias is to start with a preliminary online or standardized interview which removes the possibility of subjectivity.

Zoom in on the key competencies for the job, and structure the processes around it.  If your job posting requires an advanced level of technical skills in a particular area, be sure to have this tested within your screening process.

Involve multiple people in the interview process.  The screening committee should be made aware of fair hiring practices and be committed to getting the best candidate possible.

Ask the same questions of everyone.  Avoid asking extra questions of some and not of others.  You  give a candidate an unfair advantage.

Included a weighted scoring sheet.  Keep to the most important competencies and weigh them according to the job.  Relying on written responses alone is not enough.  This makes the process far too open to interpretation, bias and illegal hiring practices.  If your interview process is ever questioned by the candidate or authorities you can at least show that you had some structure in place.  Having a scoring sheet throughout the process:  recruitment, interviewing, and reference checking will cut down on the bias.  You owe it to the candidate and to the reputation of your organization to follow a structured system.

Focus on the key issues.  Can the candidate do the job? Based on their responses and prior work history, will they do the job?  If they have not done the job before, what qualities have they demonstrated in the interview process or skills have they obtained from other experiences that make the case that they can do the job.

Conduct reference checks.  Ensure that all candidates referees are asked the same questions.

Don’t forget empathy.  Looking for a job these days is harder than ever and there are so many people in need of one. Always keep in mind how you would like to be treated.  Think about how you would feel if someone less qualified got a job that should have been yours.

The Complicated Dynamic of Racism in Long Term Care


Holding Hands with Elderly Patient

 

By:  Evelina Silveira, President,   Diversity at Work in London Inc. and author of  Diversity and Inclusion on A Budget:  How to have a more engaged and innovative workforce for little or no dollars.

Go to almost any long term care facility in the London, Ontario area and the racial divide will be very visible when it comes to who is a  front-line worker versus a resident.  Race and ethnicity become very pronounced.  British name plaques sprinkled with a few Southern European ones grace the corridors of the residence.  These facilities are home to a largely female population, and the leadership is usually comprised of women of British origin.

When we look more closely however, we will see that visible minorities form a good part of the staff involved in direct service delivery.  In London, this means primarily Filipino, Sudanese, Ethiopian, Eritrean, Latin American and Eastern European women.  For the most part, the residents have had very little contact with these groups and are unfamiliar with them, and consequently   deep-rooted racism, prejudice and stereotypes are not uncommon.

We have to remember that the cultural and racial demographics did not change much until the mid 1980’s in London, Ontario.  These residents probably did not grow up, live alongside and work with people who looked different, sounded different and did things differently.   It should be expected that they may have feelings of discomfort when they are in such a vulnerable position when they have to rely on these workers for so much of their basic care and sense of safety.

However, this lack of comfort can lead to racism causing devastating consequences for these workers.  False accusations, physical assaults against the workers and racial slurs can all be hurled at the people who are entrusted to look after them.  Feeling powerless, and afraid to report any problems for fear of losing their job, many minority workers have to face the additional brunt of racism while they go about their jobs caring for our family members in low paying positions with little opportunity for advancement.

Administrators will note that while many residents may keep their racial intolerance to themselves, if they are struck with dementia their filter is often lost.  It means that racial minorities who work in dementia services will deal with the effects of racism to an even larger degree.  It is a very slippery slope as we cannot punish people with dementia for what they say, so what do we do?

There is very little in the research about what might be the best solutions to the problem of racism against direct care workers in senior residences.  It can be challenging because long term care is a resident’s home. To complicate matters, residents who are hard of hearing report real challenges understanding those who have heavy accents.  But can long term care facilities be doing more to embrace the diversity of their staff?  The answer is yes.  Here are a few suggestions, but we need more.

 1.   Advertise languages spoken at your long-term care facility. –  Use your website, boast about it in your pamphlets and create a welcome sign for your front lobby that is multi-lingual and showcases the languages spoken.

 2.  Have multicultural displays.  Work with families, residents and employees to showcase various cultures in your lobby.  You might want to designate a multicultural week where you could have display tables that residents and family members could preside.  This is a great way to let everyone know that your home respects and celebrates culture.  Don’t forget to include posters that show respect for diversity and inclusion.  Include a few new food choices.

 3.  Solicit ideas for new recreational activities.  Do you have a resident who enjoys working on a craft project that is unique to     their  country of origin?  Would they be interested in teaching others how to do it?  Your multicultural staff could provide insight into some foods, outings, music and crafts.  The possibilities are endless; all the while learning about one another can be fun.

4.  Intake Assessments.   It is important to let residents and family members know about respect policies that you may have regarding your employees.  Depending on the resident’s health condition they may or may not be able to adhere to them. Ensure that you include some culturally based questions about:  values, end-of life decisions, language spoken.

 5.  Onboarding for New Employees – Ensure that all employees are told about the supports that are available to them when it comes to any bullying, harassment and racism.  Racism can take a toll on a worker’s mental health and performance, and they need to know what it looks like and where they can report it without jeopardizing their job security.   The leadership needs to take reports of racism seriously and be prepared to create a work plan that can protect them that is respectful to the worker and the resident’s rights.

6.  Take a Team Approach.  While little can be done to change the behaviour of elderly residents, a lot can be done to create a supportive team environment for the person who is experiencing the racism, reducing some of the negative effects.  Workers may be assigned to work in pairs to deal with difficult residents or be removed from dealing with the problematic client altogether.  Communication is the key.  Remember to involve the worker in the plan.   Leaders should also take a proactive approach to speak with the resident if they are coherent and finding out what their concerns are.  The resident may have some legitimate concerns that may be wrongfully dismissed as racism.  However, if racism is the issue this is an opportunity for the leaders to demonstrate to the resident that the worker is qualified to do the job just as the rest and should be treated with the same respect.  This is an important action the leader must take to demonstrate to the worker that their concerns are treated seriously and that while he/she may not have the confidence of the resident their boss believes in them.

If your organization has faced similar situations, please leave us your comments about what worked.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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