You may have grown up hearing adults say that life isn’t always fair, and that’s true. Turns out they weren’t just trying to get you to stop fighting with your brother over who got the bigger piece of cake, they were trying to help you start to acclimate to some of the larger world’s unpleasantness.
But, just because life may be far messier and much more complicated than we imagined as kids doesn’t mean that we should accept the status quo. When things are unfair at work, the goal is to become part of the solution, not part of the problem.
Let’s take a closer look at a few injustices employees still face at work, and think about what you can do to move things in a more just direction.
Whatever your gender may be, you shouldn’t sit idly by while women (or any other group) are treated differently in your office. It’s not right, and these injustices have been going on for far too long. The ways in which some people are treated differently than others at work vary, but the problems seem to fall into a couple big categories: compensation, leadership opportunities, and day-to-day interactions.
First, if you know (maybe through sharing salaries, or from some other method) that women are paid less than men where you work, you’ve stumbled upon an issue that deserves your attention. We all have a right to equal pay, and there could be some very real consequences for companies, both directly and indirectly, that fail to get on board. There are some resources you can use to learn more about fair pay, and to do something, like file a complaint, if there is a problem where you work.
- Women and minorities aren’t being promoted, and/or rarely fill leadership roles.
If you notice that women or minorities are being passed over for promotion at an unfair rate, or that they rarely hold leadership roles — and you’re in a fairly secure position yourself — then you should also consider doing something to move things in a better direction.
“…[A]s people become more senior in organizations, they should ask ‘hey, when did this organization last do a salary equity review along gender/race/whatever lines?'” says Anne Krook, author of “Now What Do I Say?”: Practical Workplace Advice for Younger Women in PayScale’s Salary Negotiation Guide. However, Krook cautions, “That is typically too risky and aggressive-sounding a question for younger/newer employees.”
- Some people are treated differently.
Another major way in which women and minorities often receive the short end of the stick at work is through being treated differently in everyday interactions and conversations around the office. Too often folks are aware that this is the case, but don’t actually do anything about it. It’s easy to get used to injustice, and dismiss it as “just the way the world works.” And, hey, things are a lot better than they used to be, right? The trouble is, that attitude won’t help to move things in a forward direction.
If you notice that your colleagues’ contributions or suggestions are being ignored, speak up. You don’t need to be confrontational; just make space for your coworker to say his or her piece. Insist on having all voices heard, and you’ll benefit your team as well as your teammate.
Of course, if there is discrimination going on at your job, you might need to go even further, but the point is that even the simplest examples of unfair treatment based on gender, race, or any other difference are wrong and deserve our attention. Life might still be pretty unfair, both in and out of the office, but that doesn’t mean we should accept it. You can make a difference.
Tell Us What You Think
How have you stood up against unfairness at your workplace? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.