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How fellow employees contribute to discriminatory environments

When injustice occurs, it can be difficult to know how to respond. Especially when one is a bystander, it can be confusing to know how or when to step in and whether an active response or silence will truly influence the outcome of the situation.

In a recent piece for the Huffington Post, a senior policy advisor for the human rights giant Amnesty International made some interesting arguments about the ways in which bystanders may unintentionally contribute to injustice. When applied to an employment discrimination context, these arguments will hopefully inspire fellow employees to think twice about how they react to negative treatment of others in the workplace.

As with grief, an individual's initial response to injustice is often denial. For example, many Americans brush off the concept of work-related discrimination because they believe that racism, sexism, ageism and other forms of discriminatory thinking are no longer manifest in the behavior of their fellow citizens. However, thousands upon thousands of complaints filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) each year tell a radically different story.

Denying the unethical and illegal treatment of fellow workers only serves to allow the cycle of workplace discrimination to continue; as does blaming the party who has been discriminated against for the way he or she has been treated.

Blaming a victim of injustice is a common trend, partially because it often makes more sense to people that injustice has some sort of rational cause. However, blaming victims does nothing but add to their insufferable circumstances.

Finally, distancing yourself from the situation may make you more comfortable, but it also often allows the discrimination to continue. As children, we are taught to stand up for what is just. This is a command far more easily said than done. However, when fellow employees fail to heed these wise words, their co-workers often pay the price.

Source: Huffington Post, "A Pattern of Denial: How You (and I) Contribute to Abuse," Marianne Mollmann, July 12, 2012

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