Why Deliberately Making You Feel Abnormal Can Be a Covert Form of Discrimination [Research Breakdown]

This is the first of a three part series on subtle forms of discrimination in the workplace. There’s a lot of evidence to show that discrimination of all kinds exists in organisations. But it’s often hard to identity or intervene because overt forms of discrimination are less frequently in society thanks to changing attitudes and improved legislation; however many covert forms of discrimination still remain.

In todays show I discuss several things including:

  • Covert discrimination and why it’s so insidious
  • How some examples may even appear to be friendly interest
  • How employee resource groups can provide a space for training, and coping with these experiences and much much more

Here’s some of what I share in the show:

Overt Forms of Discrimination Are Considered To Be Rare

I explain how overt forms of discrimination are uncommon in the workplace and point towards what has replaced it:

Overt forms of discrimination like this are increasingly rare thanks to changing attitudes and improved legislation and the Diversity & Inclusion agenda becoming more mainstream; however many covert forms of discrimination remain in the workplace”

Unelected Spokesperson For Your Entire Social Identity Group

I describe how some employees are inadvertently tasked with being unelected spokespeople for their entire social identity group:

It was as if my friend was expected to be an authority on everything related to his ethnic culture. After a while he became exhausted with the questions and was left feeling uncomfortable. He says now if anyone asks him a lot of “cultural” questions he says he doesn’t know and politely tells them to look online”

Peter Kay’s Comedy As A Metaphor

I explain how the comedian Peter Kay demonstrates that almost anything can be made to look ridiculous when subject to the normalising gaze:

“The comedian Peter Kay has a very famous skit where he’s talking about garlic bread. Now garlic bread is something you can pick up in most supermarkets or stores in Europe or the US. The point is, it’s not considered to be a rare or unusual thing in Western Society. He keeps on repeating garlic and bread and really draws attention to the idea that garlic and bread shouldn’t go together.”

Here are some selected links to for the resources and reports I discuss in the episode.

Show Notes

Peter Kay

Peter Kay Garlic Bread

Professor Koen Van Lear

Dr Maddy Janssens

Ethnic minority professionals’ experiences with subtle discrimination in the workplace

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The Elements of Inclusion #4