Employment Harassment and Discrimination — Can Greater Workplace Awareness Prevent Bad Situations from Metastasizing into Worse Ones?

It seems like every day in the news we read about new cases of ferociously unfair workplace discrimination in New York, as well as harassment, wage and hour violations, and retaliation. Unfortunately, by the time that independent parties are brought in to resolve workplace frustrations, it is often too late to avoid lawsuits and litigation. But could there be a simpler way to preserve employee rights and protect the business interests of employers?

Perhaps.

One new method has shown startlingly positive results in a number of industries. It can be summed up in single word: Awareness.

Simply put, when workers become more aware of one another’s concerns, sensitivities, and proclivities, uncomfortable situations seem easier to resolve. This may sound like common sense, but it is common sense uncommonly practiced.

How might increased awareness of others lead to problem resolution?

1) Awareness leads to empathy.

Often, in workplace situations, people have a ‘me against the world’ mentality. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing — after all, we live in a capitalistic culture that has generated amazing results. But when the pursuit of wealth and power becomes the singular objective of workers and bosses alike, it can lead to insensitivities that can corrupt institutions and ultimately drag down efficiency. For instance, suppose a manager at a bank ruthlessly pursues policies to squash his subordinates and better his peers for the sole purpose of climbing the corporate ladder. He might ultimately get promoted. But his behavior diminishes his corporation. As a result, everybody loses in the end. Moreover, this ruthless pursuit of power blinds him to legitimate concerns that his subordinates may have, including concerns about untoward harassment and discrimination.

Conversely, consider a manager who cultivates awareness of his coworkers and subordinates. He may develop ‘win-win’ solutions to common on-the-job problems. As a result, he will likely be more sensitive to concerns about harassment and discrimination, be faster at resolving these situations and therefore be more effective at advancing not only his interests but also the interests of his colleagues and his organization.

2) Greater awareness breeds greater mutual trust.

In modern corporations, depersonalization of employees is almost always a big problem. But by practicing awareness of those around you, you can identify problems proactively and nip them in the bud.

3) Awareness reduces stress.

A plethora of studies shows that mindfulness can reduce stress. This in turn can lead to a cascade of health benefits, including reduced cortisone levels, a higher level of fulfillment and satisfaction, and a greater sense of control and perspective. An ancillary benefit of practicing awareness of your moods and concerns — and the moods and concerns of others — is that you should be more alert at identifying office discrimination, harassment, and other misbehaviors before they become major problems.

For legal help resolving difficult or even intractable-seeming hostile workplace problems, contact the lawyers here at Joseph & Kirschenbaum LLP at www.jhllp.com or dial us at (212) 688-5640.