Influencing Managers in Higher Level Positions to Avoid Discriminatory Comments

Most human resource management (HRM) professionals recognize the significance of the legal environment as it relates to employment law; however, they face numerous challenges to legal compliance.  There are four reasons such challenges exist: (a) laws, (b) regulations, (c) court decisions, and (d) the fact that “laws often have unanticipated or unintended consequences.”[1]  Equal employment opportunity (EEO)[2] laws can be especially litigious for companies, small to large, and for that reason a number of HRM practices are encouraged to avoid problematic issues with EEO compliance.  A more significant practice is training.

There are two dimensions of EEO training.  The first is keeping all levels of management up-to-date on current law and labor issues, and the second is “communicating to employees [about the organization’s] commitment to a discrimination-free work environment.”[3]  When addressing the former—training of management—it is necessary to go beyond mere updates.  What is needed is to educate and advise influential managers to avoid asking potentially discriminating questions or making inappropriate discriminatory comments (in fact or appearance).  This is especially important for those influential managers who make key decisions in your company (i.e., VP’s and higher).

The aims and objectives of the EEO training can take on a number of forms: information, awareness, attitudes, behavior, and culture,[4] depending upon the assessed need.  However, a good place to begin is to help executives move beyond information of legal facts, to an awareness of their personal point of view.  Paul and Elder (2006) state that

Point of view is one of the most challenging elements to master.  On the one hand, most people understand intuitively that when we think, we think within a point of view.  On the other hand, when people who are reasoning something through are asked to identify or explain their point of view, they are likely to begin expressing anything and everything they are thinking about.[5]

A point of view can be influenced by any number of factors (e.g., culture, religion, gender, profession, age group, point in time, a club or organization).[6]  Helping executives identify their various points of view—which have corporate implications—and correcting through coaching where needed—will aid in better decision making and improved behaviors to help avoid pitfalls with EEO compliance.[7]

EEOC representatives are available on a limited basis at no cost to make presentations and participate in meetings with employees and employers, and their representative groups, as well as community organizations and other members of the general public.[8]

[1] Gomez-Mejia, L. R., Balkin, D. B., & Cardy, R. L. (2012). Managing human resources (7thed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. (p. 118)

[2] Equal Employment Opportunity upholds the legislation that protects against workplace discrimination.  For a quick review of what is covered, download and review the employer’s poster fitted for screen reading:

[3] Ibid.

[4] Home Office. (2005). Training in racism awareness and cultural diversity.  London: Home Office Development and Practice Reports.

[5] Paul, R., & Elder, L. (2006). Critical thinking: Learn the tools the best thinkers use. Columbus, OH: Pearson Prentice Hall.

[6] Ibid.

[7]  Training is also available through No Cost Outreach and Education Programs.

[8] U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (n.d.). Outreach, education, and technical assistance. Retrieved August 18, 2015, from (para. 2)

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