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Why ethnic and racist banter in your workplace is bad for performance and productivity

IDC has just completed a diversity and inclusion (D&I) diagnostic for a major, global client. It involved seeking the views of both ethnic minority and ethic majority people in 21 countries across Asia and Europe. One of the questions asked them their views on what barriers existed in the client's culture that made them feel excluded.

A key finding was that, in all the countries covered, those people from an ethnic minority background did not like jokes and banter made about their ethnicity or race. This is a finding which has been confirmed in our D&I diagnostics over and over again.

Those who are in the ethnic majority in a country are often puzzled as to why they should stop this kind of joking and banter. After all, they say it's just in jest and not in any way meant to be hurtful - it's just friendly fun!

The problem is that this type of banter is often regular and repetitious and makes those people from an ethnic minority background feel apart from the workforce as a whole. In other words, it makes ethnic minority people feel excluded.

In another article we look at microinequities; sometimes known as the 'power of small'. These are patterns of negative messages that people experience, such as ethnic jokes and banter. The messages in themselves are often relatively insignificant; but the cumulative experience of being on the receiving end can be demotivating and damaging to self-esteem.

This results in people not having the confidence to be able to perform to their fullest ability, and impacts negatively on business performance and productivity.

IDC's research has demonstrated that ethnic minority people in the workforce are often disadvantaged in this way and they experience more patterns of negative messages than those from the majority group. Hence the need for employers to discourage ethnic and racist banter and jokes in the workplace.

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