Playing the “Race Card”-A Challenge for Employers!
Playing the “Race Card,” according to Wikipedia, is defined as an “idiomatic phrase that refers to the act of bringing the issue of race or racism into debate, perhaps to confuse the matter. Playing the race card is amplified in socio-political systems where individuals know they may be formally awarded special access to rights and resources based upon their membership of a racial group. Race Card is a metaphorical reference to card games in which a trump card may be used to gain an advantage.” This is one of the most problematic areas employers, managers, and human resource professionals are confronted with in how to manage minorities, without every action being challenged as discriminatory.
Managers, especially, have to learn how to get around the mental obstacles associated with minorities without compromising the personnel policies, practices, and procedures of the employer; otherwise, the company will not be run like a “well oiled” machine. Admittedly, this task is not an easy one but managers and supervisors must, at the outset, realize that each of their employees’ efforts may bring value to the whole despite their ethnic background. With this, management needs to focus on diversity by planning and putting certain systems into place, all in an effort to have the entire staff understand the potential advantages of having a diverse workforce.
Sadly, it is true minorities will “play the race card,” however, Managers cannot live in fear that one of their employees will utter the unspeakable “You are singling me out because I am …!” Since Managers and supervisors play a key role in ensuring that the work environment is at least a suitable place to work for everyone, not just the privileged few. Therefore, in the performance of their responsibilities, managers and supervisors need to continually educate themselves because of the changing demographics within their respective work environments, which may include learning additional values inconsistent with their own. They need to look within themselves. This may create ongoing self-awareness that forces them to understand that they may have their own bias that manifests itself from their attitude, tone, or even body language. Minorities can spot such biases a mile away. The sooner a manager or supervisor recognizes they may have their own biases, the sooner that they will realize that just because people are different, it does not mean they are inferior. If Managers and supervisors do not come to grips with these harsh realities, and choose to ignore the fact that they may have some internal personal issues related to having a diverse workforce, it will cost the company time, money, and loss of productivity.
Furthermore, it is critical that Managers and supervisors need to re-enforce to their staff that having a diverse workforce is an advantage because each group may have different positive perspectives that can benefit the whole by working more effectively together. This may well keep the employees working more cohesively together despite the differences that may have with other ethnic groups as well. By instilling this message, employees will begin to understand that maximizing the contributions of all, regardless of background, will contribute to the overall organizational goals. The reality is, a large number of employees appear to lack “social intolerance.” Having a positive environment may, at a minimum, cut down on the accusations levied by minorities because such allegations would be inconsistent with the culture of the environment and your own ideologies.
Minorities will play the race card if they think they can gain by the accusations. Whether they will be successful if they bring an action against the employer is entirely up to their managers and supervisors for all of the reasons previously mentioned. Remember, at the end of the day, when managing “people of color”, all races under the skin are just like everybody else. It’s the variation among individuals that poses the greatest risk to a harmonious work environment. Manage accordingly.
Note: The above message was taken in part from my newly released book; “Walking on Eggshells, (Managing Minorities in the Workplace), Dorrance Publishing, November, 2013