For companies focusing on survival and growth in the complex and diverse global environment of today, attaining a competitive advantage is essential. Since business operations have expanded globally, having an open mind in hiring and retaining top-performing employees is vital in having an inclusive work culture (Shore, Randel, Chung, Dean, Holcombe & Singh, 2011). A diverse workforce brings in a unique set of experience and perspective which are important in developing new ideas and innovation. In addition to cultural diversity and inclusion, the leadership in these organizations should ensure an environment that is free from harassment or retaliation with the employees. Employee harassment or retaliatory techniques are likely to destroy the organizations image once these issues are exposed to the public. Additionally, they affect employee performance and may lead to loss of performing workers. This essay will analyze the role of leadership in ensuring an inclusive culture from harassment and retaliation as well as explain possible impacts for not valuing diversity.
In February 2017, Susan Fowler, a former Uber software engineer wrote a blog post launching complains against the management of Uber. She alleged that she was sexually harassed while working at the company and upon reporting the issue to the human resource department, her manager threatened to fire her (Duane Morris LLP, 2017). Additionally, the human resource department subordinated her concerns to the career ambitions of the accused, and she was warned of possible retaliation if she was to continue working with the accused. She was accused of being the problem, subjected to gender stereotypes, and was told that she was unprofessional by reporting the issue via email to the human resource. After this issue was exposed, Ubers CEO Travis Kalanick, offered an apology in a meeting involving all employees and promised to make improvements in the company. Fowler claimed that these problems resulted in a significant decrease in the percentage of female engineers at Uber during her tenure. Fowlers allegations and others of the kind are a nightmare for organizations, especially those operating at a global scale. It sheds light on the need of companies to have leadership that does not provide loopholes for the managers and top performers to create an unwelcoming culture and a human resource department that turns a blind eye to employee misconduct.
To achieve a diverse and an inclusive culture free of harassment and retaliation, organizations leadership need to devise strategies that discourage such occurrences (Lumby, & Coleman, 2007). Some of these strategies include creating robust equal employment opportunities policies, developing a visible and consistent commitment by the leadership to uphold equal treatment for all employees, having an independent and empowered human resource department equipped to address difficult employee relations, and teaching the workforce that conduct is expected from everyone and that rules will be enforced where necessary. Having clear written policies that prohibit inappropriate conduct and a complaint procedure that addresses perceived problems, is a critical step to achieving inclusion (Duane Morris LLP, 2017). The policies need to be clear on the prohibited conducts, the people to whom the policy applies, possible consequences for violation, and a procedure for reporting complaints. A clear and consistent support by the leadership is a critical step to ensuring the retention of an all-inclusive culture without harassment and retaliation. The commitment should be visible to all the employees that the leadership is focused on eliminating any chance of discrimination and harassment.
The leadership should also create an independent human resource department that is equipped to serve as an impartial investigator and arbiter of all employee concerns without granting special considerations to some. Although it is of essence for the HR department to partner with the management, it is also prudent for the department to be independent. Based on Fowlers case, the HR department was painted as a discriminative one, and this should be a lesson for other companies. Training employees on the company culture and expectations gives them a picture of the environment in which they will be working. All employees should be trained about the companys stand concerning diversity and inclusion, prohibition of discrimination, and harassment and retaliation (Duane Morris LLP, 2017). The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in January 2017 gave a proposed guidance that recommends anti-harassment training for employees at every level including workplace civility training. This, and the other measures earlier mentioned need to be implemented by the management to realize a diverse and inclusive culture free of harassment or retaliation.
A business culture that does not value diversity is likely to experience certain impacts on its operations. Creating and retaining a diverse workforce can be challenging, and some management bypass or minimally implement it (Herring, 2009). Some managers may not see the benefit of having all kinds of people working as a team in the organization. However, the impact of not valuing diversity is felt when a complaint arises, such as the one launched by Fowler. The management utilizes a lot of time and efforts in resolving such matter and could lead to financial loss especially if the matter is launched in court and the company found guilty. Pro-active diversity work tends to have a limited budget, but once a grievance is launched, the budget becomes unlimited. In a court of law, the investigation will incorporate other similar cases for other employees, and this could be costly for the company that overlooks diversity, inclusion, and equality.
Another impact of not valuing diversity and equality is the loss of company reputation when grievances are exposed to the public. For instance, in Fowlers case, Uber was portrayed as a company that condones misconduct from some employees but are discriminative of other employees. The human resource department was depicted as ineffective and incompetent. According to Fowler, harassment and inequality led to a significant decrease in the percentage of female engineers for the company. This is a bad image for Uber. No company wants to be exposed for the wrong reasons. This explains why Uber CEO came forward to apologize. When such a picture is painted concerning a certain company, people are likely to distance themselves, and not many would want to work at such a place. Additionally, devaluing diversity could be blocking the company from the privilege of having different abilities from different people (Herring, 2009). Diversity is known to result in a pool of differently abled people who can integrate their experiences and know-how for maximum performance of the company. Lack of this diversity, therefore, reduces such an opportunity.
In conclusion, workforce diversification and inclusion is a critical tool in the present global business environment. The leadership has the mandate to ensure a culture free of harassment and retaliation through creating policies for equal employment opportunities, having a visible, consistent, and committed leadership, developing an independent and empowered HR department for addressing employee grievances, and training the workforce on the cultural conduct of the company and the application of rules. Devaluing diversity could cause the company financial loss especially if there is a lawsuit. Companies lose their reputation and the opportunity to reap the benefits of a diverse workforce. Therefore, diversity is an advantageous approach to business success.
Herring, C. (2009). Does diversity pay? Race, gender, and the business case for diversity. American Sociological Review, 74(2), 208-224.
Lumby, J., & Coleman, M. (2007). Leadership and diversity: Challenging theory and practice in education. Sage.
Shore, L. M., Randel, A. E., Chung, B. G., Dean, M. A., Holcombe Ehrhart, K., & Singh, G. (2011). Inclusion and diversity in work groups: A review and model for future research. Journal of Management, 37(4), 1262-1289.
Duane Morris LLP: Key Lessons from Recent Employee Allegations against Uber (March 21, 2017)
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