Supporting your BAME colleagues in the workplace

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Health Assured team

21 October 2021

32% of Black Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) employees have seen or experienced racial harassment or bullying from colleagues in the last five years¹.

That’s over three in ten colleagues who’ve dealt with unjust confrontation at work because of their ethnic background. It’s a heartbreaking statistic. And it’s one of so many more statistics that highlight the need for action in the workplace. Now we are aware of the challenges BAME colleagues face, no longer can we ignore this immoral issue.

Every person is equal—no matter their ethnic background. A happy, healthy and productive workplace embraces diversity and change. Colleagues support each other, listen to each other, and look out for one another. We’re over halfway through Black History Month now, but let’s not let that stop us from making necessary changes. This is an ongoing issue that needs persistent work from all of us, all year round. Below you’ll find some pointers on how to support your BAME colleagues in the workplace.

Educate yourself

Think about how much you know about the struggles of your BAME colleagues. Notice if you have any gaps in your knowledge. Actively fill these gaps by taking the time to find and read the many available resources. From microaggressions to unconscious biases and racial discrimination. It's good to educate yourself on the different topics affecting the BAME community. This way, you'll be able to empathise and relate to your colleagues better.

Become an ally

Becoming an ally has many different aspects to it. When you are an ally, you speak up against racism wherever you encounter it. You challenge racist comments to help bring about cultural change. You keep the conversation going in the workplace and share information with others. It’s not easy to become an ally, but it’s not easy to face the racial harassment and bullying that BAME colleagues are facing either.

An open ear

Above all else, make sure you’re listening. If one of your colleagues feels comfortable enough to share their experiences with you, provide an open ear to all they have to say. Take this as an opportunity to learn about their experiences and gain understanding. Listen intently and with empathy. When people feel heard and understood, they are more likely to open up again in the future. This is one of the first steps towards an open workplace culture that values inclusivity and diversity for all.

Think before you speak

Sometimes unintentional prejudices can surface in conversations with colleagues. These negative slights or insults are also known as microaggressions. Although often unintentional, these remarks can trigger people from minority backgrounds. Examples include “where are you actually from” or “that’s a strange name”. These acts highlight unconscious biases that have evolved from outdated racist narratives. Try to pay attention and be conscious of your words before you speak—it can greatly improve your interactions in the workplace.

Stay connected

Reach out to your colleagues and check in on them regularly. It might not always be clear that someone is suffering. Consider that experiences of discrimination, harassment and bullying at work are higher for BAME colleagues. Make sure you are proactive in your efforts to involve all colleagues. These actions might not seem like much, but every small step is progress towards a workplace where everyone feels welcome.

References

¹ McGregor-Smith, R., & Baroness (2017). Race in the workplace: the McGregor-Smith review. Available at: https://www.eapa.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/20-0014-EAPA-UK-ROI-Report-2020-Web.pdf [Accessed August 20, 2021].

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