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Stop Hate at the Door

I could not have foreseen Monday when I found myself researching the topic of hate in our country, that on Wednesday nineteen tiny hopeful spirits and two adults charged with opening a wider world for them would walk through the school doors never to finish their day out.

My focus had shifted to the word when my five-year-old grandson commented emphatically that he hated broccoli. I remembered saying the same thing to my mother when I was his age but somehow the world didn’t seem so full of hatred back then - or at least it wasn’t as visible to me in a nondigital world. So, we talked about expressing how we felt but … dialing it back a bit by saying that we didn’t care for green food.

This brief conversation has stuck with me as the word hate has taken on a new meaning in the last few years. Not a day goes by without evidence that there are those that will go to any extreme to prove their point even if the cost is steep to innocent bystanders. Today hatred wears many faces.

The latest statistics from the FBI show hate crimes at their highest levels in more than a decade, particularly against Black and Asian American communities. Between 2020 and 2021 incidents increased roughly 39% with Anti-Asian hate crimes increasing 224% (following leaders who pointed to the pandemic as the Kung Flu), 59% anti-Jewish, 51% anti-gay. And the 10 largest metropolitan areas reported a record overall increase of 54.5% with New York City at 96%, LA at 71% Philadelphia at 234%, San Diego at 84% and San Antonio, just miles from the latest school shooting at 76%.

You might be under the illusion that you are working in an oasis safe from this trend. Because we now have laws forbidding discrimination and harassment and there is a big push for diversity, many people believe that hate, an extreme version of bias, is an exaggeration in the workplace and that there is a fair system for stopping it. But those who hate on the outside bring it in with them. Sometimes it manifests in the workplace with discrimination and, with some people, violence. The phrases “going postal” and “I’m mad and I’m not going to take it anymore” were coined out of truth.

I often tell my clients that corporations are nothing more than pieces of paper filed at the Secretary of States office - they are meaningless without the people that make the business a business - the most important asset of any business, one that needs careful protection. So how do we pull the drawbridge up to keep hate out of our place of work? Consider the following:

1. Take seriously the smallest hint of hate, even what appears to be simple name-calling. Slurs often escalate to harassment, harassment to threats, and threats to physical violence.

2. Listen for rumors about certain employees and watch for an increase in jokes or cartoons making the rounds on e-mail or bulletin boards. It doesn’t just happen in high school – bullying is real.

3. Have “face time” with employees on a regular basis and talk about respect with specific examples as you ask open-ended questions about their work experience. Clearly articulate how inclusivity is tied to the mission of your organization as a reminder that hatred will not be tolerated.

4. Ensure that management and the CEO set the tone. Provide heroic role models for employees who may be easily swayed out of fear.

5. Provide awareness training, education, and mentoring to help minimize bias and hate. The more we know people as individuals, the more empathetic we become which decreases fear and the potential for hate. Practice makes perfect.

6. Be the first to speak up when hatred surfaces, both in person and online. You can make a difference. Avoid the bystander effect, rooted in our very human tendency to assume someone else will act.

7. Start conversations with your teams and organizations about incidents of violence/world events when they occur in the community. Is yours a business that will no longer have a presence in communities where your employees’ rights are or will be restricted?

8. Identify and create personalized plans to support employees who are directly impacted (or indirectly as a population) by hate crimes or bias incidents. Encourage them to prioritize physical and mental health by taking time off if necessary or reducing their work responsibilities. Offer mental health services as needed.

Many companies are hiring diversity and inclusion managers these days, and this is an important step, but bias, prejudice and hatred run deep. To some extent, it’s a double edge sword when we throw everyone into one melting pot and expect a richer stew. If hatred is unconsciously added even with the best of intentions, it simply simmers directly affecting the outcome. Ultimately, hate in the workplace has a bottom-line consequence to the business.

Historically, in midterm election years, hate crimes almost always peak, or come close to peaking much later in the year. What does this mean for our children and those we love and others we don’t even know? 2022 promises to be an even more turbulent year unless we can come to grips with reality and find solutions. Wringing our hands, praying that it will go away and being grateful that its them not us isn’t helpful. We need actual, real, and doable solutions to this wave of insanity.

These solutions rest squarely on each of our shoulders and there is power in numbers. All of us want our children to start their days without fear so that they can step into their greatness, ready to take on a world in need. The answers start at home, perhaps with a conversation about the merits of green vegetables and the word hatred. They continue at work, in our communities and by ensuring that we have elected officials that will act in the interest of humanity rather than detract with their own agendas.

Apathy or emojis on your social media pages without real action on your part will be interpreted as acceptance by the perpetrators, the public and — worse — the victims. It could have been you or yours. This time you were one of the lucky ones. The power rests with you.

Copyright © 2022

All rights reserved – Linda Lattimore


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