The Reverse Discrimination Challenge

While this is not recognized as a serious concern area in India as yet, reverse discrimination lawsuits seem to be on the increase in the United States. In India, since regulations related to having a diverse workforce are not in place, the private sector has the ability to define its diversity policy as per what works for its own business strategy. But reverse discrimination in India tends to have socio-political under-currents and one has to be cognizant of the escalation that can take place.

Therefore while framing the diversity strategy as well as policy, the organizations must balance their approach by keeping the following elements in mind-

  • Defining the percentage of candidates (prospective employees or existing employees) without incorporating the performance and potential aspects would not be the right approach. Representation of employees from diverse groups is important but important decisions such as promotions, career movements, development opportunities and so on should be made based on the employee’s performance and capability. If an employee who is less capable or experienced is given a preference only due to the fact that there is a diversity imperative, it leads to disengagement.
  • Role identification – This is particularly essential when including differently abled individuals into the workforce so that there is a defined and transparent process for all employees to see and understand. The higher their understanding, the higher the acceptance and the lower the chances of reverse discrimination.
  • Sensitization - Organizations can avoid difficult situations of reverse discrimination by sensitizing the managers about the implications of both discrimination as well as reverse discrimination. This will also allow the managers to seek clarifications that they might have related to what is perceived as inappropriate treatment under these two brackets. Hence the diversity trainings should also discuss what is reverse discrimination and the consequences.
  • Regular monitoring / tracking – Just as there is a need to conduct regular diversity audits, there is a need to also track reverse discrimination instances when it comes to people processes.
  • Grievance handling – Just as there is a process for handling discriminatory grievances that process should include redressal of reverse discrimination related instances as well. The committee should take this seriously since it impacts the morale of the employees as well as the perception that they have of the organization’s fairness and transparency. An employee who experiences this or sees another employee experiencing the same should have the comfort level and trust to bring it to the attention of the HR team, the requisite committee or the manager.

HR practitioners are currently grappling with Diversity related concerns and how that is impacting business. But while reverse discrimination is still in the initial stages, awareness of such issues is important for the organization and its HR team to be able to develop the right future-focused strategy related to people and managing their differences, as well as similarities in an optimal manner. Inclusion is truly about bringing each employee ( whether in the majority or minority) within the organization’s culture sphere and absorbing them with their differences, as well as enabling them to adapt to each other.

This article was first published in Business Manager magazine, in March 2014


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