to address harassment, bullying and discrimination
with Stephen Hammond
Tip #26 — DIFFERENCES AND KID GLOVES
Years ago, the vice president of human resources at a large Canadian company was describing to me a problem with one employee. He finished off his input with the sarcastic comment, "And the best part of all, she's black." I knew what he meant and what he was thinking - if they didn't handle the situation properly, she was more than likely to file a complaint of discrimination. I call this the "kid glove" syndrome; many a worker feels that a fellow employee who is a member of a minority group (or female) needs or gets special (extra gentle) treatment either in an effort to protect them or as a way of avoiding a human rights complaint.
We don't do anyone any favours by treating people with kid-gloves. It's a disservice and adds fuel to the fire of those who aspire to keep anyone out who is considered different.
First, it's insulting to a person in a minority to be offered special treatment when none is needed. Second, it creates resentment from other employees. Third, it leads employers to avoid hiring other people who are different. They fall back on how the last woman or Sikh man led to perceived problems.
Enforce rules, correct behaviour, and dish out discipline evenly; everyone should get fair treatment. If employees come to you saying they feel they're being treated more harshly than another person due to their gender or ethnicity, listen carefully in case there is something to it. If you've done your job properly, your explanation will go a long way to correct the misconception or misunderstanding.
1) Observe "kid glove" treatment - as it may be going on. In your workplace are women, for example, treated more carefully than men? If so, what's the reason for that? I've spoken to many women who are furious at the "light" treatment they don't want nor need. If it's happening, listen carefully to the excuses that are given. If it sounds like a script from a 1950s sitcom, you know it's time to make a change for the better.
2) Consider the intentions - as they can be getting in the way. My parents taught me the saying "the road to hell is paved with good intentions" and it's relevant when considering "kid glove" treatments. Someone might be getting different treatment for the best of intentions, but if it's not needed, nor desired, then thank someone for their concern, but tell them the behaviour has to change.
3) Talk to people who may be the recipient of different treatment - but be careful not to sabotage them. In other words, you can inquire, but don't take everyone who's "different" to lunch and think that's going to help. Your actions may be the very thing that re-enforces a difference that causes resentment from others. Simple enquiries or questions may get you the answers you need. And you may find everything is fine.