The winter holidays give organizations an opportunity to show appreciation to employees and customers. Celebrating the holidays in an increasingly cultural diverse workplace can challenge human resource, leaders, managers and diversity officers. Do you follow tradition and celebrate Christmas at the cost of excluding non-Christians? Should you have a multicultural holiday celebration at the price of Christians feeling slighted? Well, these challenges pale in comparison to what a large Missouri-based electronics company is dealing with.
KSPR News in Missouri reported that a company email upset employee Clint Bradley so much that he felt compelled to give it to the media. You see, the email memo gave details about who employees were allowed to bring to their company Christmas party. The email presumably reads….”The only person an employee can take as a companion to the Christmas party is an individual that they are married to, or under the current laws of Missouri, they can marry.” “What went out from that email was blunt discrimination,” said Clint Bradley who was working in the human resources department for the electronics company at the time.
Bradley stated that “To start dictating to the employees who you can bring to a company Christmas party out of appreciation still says you are not completely welcome here at this company. We appreciate you labor, but you are still not completely welcome.”
Bradley said that he was standing up for his coworkers by forwarding the email to the media, which ultimately cost him his job. The company later publicly stated the email does not reflect company policy. “They told me I had jeopardized confidential information outside to the public. It wasn’t a confidential email. There was nothing that stated confidentiality,” said Bradley. Presumably the company also posted the memo on the bulletin board, which Bradley claims is another indication that it was not a confidential notice.
Although the company later notified the employees verbally that the party was limited to those eighteen years and older, Bradley thinks the bottom line is that the company set a negative precedent for its employees. He says, People of same gender orientation “just want to have the same equal amount of rights, knowing they are as good of an employee as the next person who’s working just as hard.”
This real life incident is a good example of organizational exclusion and the daily indignities people who “don’t fit it” experience in the workplace. While religious beliefs and homophobia may be the root problem, the leadership, diversity officer, and human resource professionals cannot afford to collude in exclusionary practices. Notice the media attention that company received after Clint became so appalled that he felt a need to go public—even though he knew it would cost him. Suddenly the company is in the public eye and has to worry about how suppliers and customers will react.
Excluding anyone in the workplace because you do not agree with her or his choice of partners will cost you. It drives talent away, lowers productivity, and jeopardizes the organization’s reputation. Avoid allowing homophobia or efforts to live by one’s religious beliefs jeopardize making sensible business decisions. You owe it to the employees, customers, and other stakeholders to take the high road on diversity matters.
If you are the organization’s leader, you may be worried about what your employees may think about supporting the inclusion of gays and lesbians. Your concern might be that their productivity may suffer or they will choose to leave the organization. There is one thing I have noticed about organizational change. People change when the leadership is serious about doing things differently. Yes, you may lose one or two valuable employees, but you will gain levels of talent and productivity that exceed what you have in a repression environment. Research shows that acceptance of gay life style correlates highly with innovations that stimulate the economy in major metropolitan areas.
What do you need to do in order to successfully include GLBT employees even when there is considerable resistance? Take a few moments and go to http://www.diversityofficermagazine.com to learn more. You can also give your two cents on this matter in the blog comment area.
Stay tuned as we continue to talk about breaking diversity news and offer you solutions to address them.
Staff Writer, Diversity Officer Magazine (http://diversityofficermagazine.com/magazine/?page_id=324)