W.C. Fields famously said, “I am free of all prejudice. I hate everyone equally." While treating others hatefully certainly won't further your career, approaching others respectfully will go a long way. Treating others equally in the workplace isn't only a nice thing to do, it's absolutely essential if you want to avoid unnecessary conflict, lawsuits and a general waste of talent.
Look at the knowledge, experience and creativity each person brings to the table rather than external factors such as race or gender. In this way, you can work to overcome unconscious stereotypes that you may hold. For example, you may find that the woman with the impeccable hair in your office is far more knowledgeable about the oil and gas industry than the guy down the hall who grew up on a ranch in Texas.
Work to become more objective. Sometimes it is difficult to treat someone equally simply because their personality grates on your nerves or you don't like their political views. As a professional, however, it is critical that you focus on Marilyn's ability to accurately interpret the financial reports rather than her views on the presidential debates.
Avoid asking colleagues who are members of minority groups to be representatives of their culture. For example, if you work with a woman who was born in Iran, refrain from asking her opinion every time people are discussing the politics of the Middle East over lunch. It's very possible that she is more concerned about whether a referendum addressing the county's industrial waste is going to pass.
Acknowledge disabilities. Recognizing that a person has challenges due to a physical disability, for example, is not discrimination. You would open the door for a colleague who was struggling under the burden of several heavy binders, so go ahead and open the door for your co-worker who is confined to a wheelchair. Unless you're overly solicitous, she is unlikely to be offended.
Treat each person in your workplace professionally. Don't allow your stereotypes to affect your interactions, because this ultimately results in treating people differently based on external characteristics. For example, executive Camille Jackson describes the struggle to maintain her composure when greeted by a company partner with a cheerful "What's up, my sister?" The Golden Rule is excellent guidance when considering how to treat people equally.
- Be aware that if you discriminate against someone based on their gender, race, national background, disability or religion, you are in violation of federal discrimination laws, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Elise Wile has been a writer since 2003. Holding a master's degree in curriculum and Instruction, she has written training materials for three school districts. Her expertise includes mentoring, serving at-risk students and corporate training.