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Encouraging Employability Series- Article 4 – Managing Workplace Bias

 

What is a Bias?

Bias is a mental limitation which makes us unable to accept things different from us. Biases do exist and it is important for all of us to know how to handle different kinds of biases. It is primarily important to be aware of sexual harassment, learn about the laws that protect women at work and create a difference for others by reporting.

 

Where do we face biases? Well almost everywhere. Be it at home, at school/college, at work, with family or with friends.

 

The most prevalent form of bias is the gender bias.

 

Gender bias –

In recruitment, there can be bias against women in the following ways –

  1. Job profile better suited to a man
  2. Marital status and incidence of pregnancy
  3. Believed to be unfit for the position

 

This bias can also impact involvement in decision making, promotion and other opportunities to develop

 

Other biases –

  • Bias on the basis of looks
  • Bias on the basis of economic and family background
  • Bias based on region
  • Bias based on Caste and Religion

 

How can we handle biases?

It starts with ‘YOU’. If you won’t be biased, then you can expect others to be unbiased towards you.

 

How to handle biases against you?

  • Do not showcase your biases on your co-workers.
  • Be assertive in case of constant offensive biases.
  • Practice mindfulness. Be aware of what you are saying and the consequences of your statement.
  • No one can make comments of a negative nature about you at the workplace. Talk to that person and show dissatisfaction by being diplomatic in giving feedback to a person about their bias.

 

Ideally –

  • Step 1: Confirm that such a thing has been happening with a friend (Maybe you have not heard it yourself)
  • Step 2: If you have not heard it, then check if this is really true
  • Step 3: Walk up to the person who said it and ask directly
    • I have heard that you comment on me like this
    • This is very hurtful to me and causes me deep upset
    • Can you please refrain from talking like this behind my back?
  • Step 4: Wait to see the impact; chances are that they have stopped. If not, then approach a higher authority and report it

 

Problems faced by women at the workplace

  • Gender Bias: She can’t do it because she is a woman
  • Unequal pay
  • Sexual harassment
  • Denied opportunities- includes promotions
  • Insufficient family support
  • Maternity benefits

 

Laws that protect women at workplace

  • Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redress) Act, 2013
  • Equal Remuneration Act, 1976
  • Maternity Benefits Act, 1861

 

Sexual Harassment at workplace

  • Who is a worker and what is the workplace?
  • Precaution
  • What is sexual harassment?
  • Examples of behavior
  • Who to complaint?
  • How to a complaint?

 

Who is a worker and what is the workplace?

Anyone who is visiting or working as ad hoc/ voluntarily/temporarily/regularly or on a daily wage basis can be considered a worker. Even a domestic help can be covered under this act. The workplace includes organized Government and private entities, unorganised companies.

 

Precaution before joining

  • Enquire about the HR policy in place for employees
  • See if the information about the act and complaint committee are provided to all employees.

 

What is sexual harassment at the workplace?

Sexual Harassment” includes any one or more of the following unwelcome acts or behavior (whether directly or by implication), namely:

  1. Physical contact or advances;
  2. A demand or request for sexual favors;
  3. Making sexually colored remarks;
  4. Showing pornography;
  5. Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature

 

Unwelcome acts or behavior

  • The acts which are not encouraged by both sides ie. One-sided interest
  • Unwanted attention and acts
  • Acts which cause anger or sadness

 

Behavioral zones

 

Green zone behavior – Acceptable not Sexual Harassment

  • Performance counseling
  • Polite touching e.g. on the elbow
  • Social interaction
  • Showing concern
  • Encouragement
  • Polite compliment
  • Friendly conversation

 

Yellow zone behavior – Use Caution

  • Violating personal “Space”
  • Whistling (at someone)
  • Questions about personal life
  • Posters/calendars
  • Off-color jokes
  • Leering and staring
  • Repeated requests for dates
  • Foul language
  • Unwanted correspondence/E-mails
  • Suggestive touching, sitting or gesturing.

 

Red zone stop! Don’t do it! – Always Considered Sexual Harassment

  • Sexual favors in return for employment rewards
  • Threats
  • Sexually explicit (pornographic) pictures displayed/Whatsapp/E-mails
  • Criminal conduct/Sexual assault

 

Impact of sexual harassment

Professionally, it may affect the efficiency of the worker.

Personally, it may affect mental health.

 

What is not sexual harassment?

  1. . Following-up on work absences.
  2. Requiring performance to job standards.
  3. The normal exercise of management rights.
  4. Work-related stress e.g. meeting deadlines or quality standards.
  5. Conditions of work.
  6. Constructive feedback about the errors made.

 

Whom to complaint?

  • Internal Complaints Committee, Local Complaints Committee
  • Filing an FIR in case of inadequate investigation or response. Section 354 of IPC.
  • National Commission for Women
  • Reach an NGO for help

 

Whom can you approach for advice?

  • Co-worker
  • Supervisor
  • Human resources department

 

When to complaint?

  • Look for similar cases with other employees
  • Discussion with co-workers
  • However, if you have ample proof that this behavior is not correct, then report it immediately. You may be helping many more victims!
  • Keep records- copies of messages, telephone numbers, any other form of interaction
  • Make sure you have the date and time saved as well

 

How to file a complaint?

  • What is a strong complaint?
  • Date of the incident,
  • Timing and place
  • Respondent’s name
  • Evidence
  • Witnesses

 

Filing a complaint may be a daunting task, but if you have colleagues who share the same problem, they may join your struggle or you may be creating a difference for everyone.

 

 

 

Author: Baishali Mukherjee

Profile- An independent writer and journalist for last nine years; presently working with Education World, Entrepreneur India, Scrabbl.com and Stoodnt.com. Worked as the content head for four books and have articles and features published in leading print and digital media spaces.

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