Bigotry affects people in the workplace everywhere. It is a form of hate that can lead to unfair treatment of those being affected by it. Bigoted behavior can hold you back from achieving goals you’ve worked hard to achieve and promotions you’ve worked hard to receive. It can promote an environment of hate that should be extinct in the year 2018. While identifying bigoted behavior can be easy, combating it can be tricky.
Definition of Bigotry
Bigotry is a devotion to one’s own beliefs, as well as an intolerance of those whose beliefs differ from one’s own. A bigot is someone who behaves in this way and allows this intolerance to affect their opinions and actions toward others. Bigotry can commonly be found in politics — when one party is intolerant of the opposing party’s beliefs. Bigotry is comparable to prejudice but ultimately believed to be stronger. It’s known as a more severe form of prejudice that is normally accompanied by discriminatory actions.
What is a bigoted person?
A bigoted person is one who holds the beliefs of intolerance against others, most commonly due to race or religion. Bigoted people can be prevalent in all aspects of life.
1. A woman decides to not let her child play with their new neighbors because they are African American. This woman has allowed a difference in race affect her view of others and has created a prejudice toward her neighbors.
2. An unidentified man threatened another unidentified man on a Q train in New York City in August of 2017. He said told the man to "get the f--k out my country before I murder your whole f--king nation." And he also made racist comments, saying, "your f--king Chinese eyes." This man’s blatant intolerances are an example of bigotry.
3. The Charlottesville riots last year are also an example of bigotry. Self-identified Nazis marched with torches and led attacks on people of color and counter-protesters. The white supremacists who believe the Caucasian race to be superior to that of other races are an example of bigoted people and bigotry itself.
What is religious bigotry?
Bigotry can also involve religion. Religious bigotry is an intolerance to those with different religious beliefs than one’s own.
1. A woman wearing a hijab is chased out of a restaurant while being called a terrorist. She is being discriminated against due to her Muslim religion and being unfairly associated with extremists with whom she has no actual affiliation.
2. In August of 2017, a California man was charged with a hate crime after he threw coins at and yelled Islamaphobic slurs at two Muslim women. The two women were leaving Target when they were exposed to the hate that accompanies bigotry due to their religion.
3. One of the most prominent examples of religious bigotry is the Holocaust. Nazi Germany followed Adolf Hitler in an attempt to eliminate the world of Judaism and all who followed it, leading to World War II. This sad example of bigotry is one of the darkest times in history.
Prejudice is a synonym of bigotry. Prejudice is a preconceived opinion not based in fact, reason, or actual experience.
Discrimination is also a synonym. Discrimination involves the unfair treatment of another person, usually involving gender, sex, or race.
Bias is another synonym for bigotry. Bias means an unfair prejudice in favor of or against a person compared to others.
There are also subcategories of bigotry synonyms. For example, anti-Semitism means a specific prejudice against Jewish people. Islamaphobia is a fear of Muslims and their religion/beliefs. Sexism is prejudice based on a person being male or female; objectification is when someone is viewed as a sexual object and, as a result, is treated differently.
Bigotry at work
Dealing with bigotry in the workplace can be tricky, especially if the person engaging in bigoted behavior is above you or even equal to you in your company. In order to combat all bigotry, we need to take a strong stance against it. But you'll want to do so without losing your job. Whether it’s your boss, your coworker, or your direct report, we’ve outlined the proper ways to handle a bigot at work.
What to do if your boss is a bigot
If you find your boss is a bigot, or is making comments that you believe to be bigoted and find personally offensive, you should take action. But you must go about it in the right way, as he/she is your superior. First, remain calm and professional. Try not to have an outburst, as an inappropriate outburst will be remembered over the comment your boss made. If you are truly frustrated, remove yourself from the situation and take a day or two to breathe and plan your next step.
If you choose to approach your boss, simply ask him/her to explain why she made the comment and what she meant by it. Avoid being confrontational. Simply be curious. Say something like, “To me, it sounded like you were associating negative qualities with my religion, but I could have misunderstood.” The way your boss responds to your statement or question can help you see if it was an honest mistake or if your boss holds beliefs that make your environment toxic.
Cover your bases by documenting everything. Document when the comment was made, what exactly was said, when you approached her about it, who was involved, etc. If your boss continues to behave in this way and you choose to take it up with HR, you will need as much documented information as possible.
Before taking any additional steps, go over the incident with someone else. Get a second opinion to ensure you are not alone in the way you interpreted the comment.
Familiarize yourself with the HR process but don’t forget that your HR reps also work for your company and may have the company’s best interest, rather than your own, in mind.
What to do if your coworker is a bigot
Again, remaining calm is key. While you want to stick up for yourself, you do not want to angrily approach a coworker and cause a scene.
If possible, try to avoid this coworker as often as you can. If that is not feasible for your office environment, you should pull her aside for a one-on-one conversation. Explain to her what she said and why it bothers you. Tell her how you perceived it and how it is offensive. Stress that you want to resolve this rationally and do not want to attack her. If others are feeling similarly about her comments, let her know. And do not forget to document the interaction in case she takes the conversation to HR or the situation escalates further.
If her behavior does not change after the initial conversation, follow the given chain of commands. Report the incidents to your boss and then take it up with HR. You deserve the right to feel comfortable and welcome in your own workplace.
What to do if your direct report is a bigot
Gather as much documented proof as possible. Do not hesitate to implement a zero-tolerance policy on bigotry. Legally, any form of bigotry should be a violation of your employer’s anti-harassment policy and should not be tolerated.
If the situation seems less black-and-white, seek legal advice. Ensure you will not run into any issues while trying to eliminate your company of unnecessary hatred. If you follow standard protocol, you should be able to let an employee go and avoid causing animosity in your workplace or promoting an environment of prejudice.