While more conversations around racial justice are happening more frequently among friends and family members, our findings also revealed that people are far less likely to feel comfortable discussing those issues at work or with their colleagues.
Using Feedback Loop's rapid consumer feedback platform, we surveyed more than 440 U.S. adults to understand their attitudes around discussing racial justice and racial discrimination in the workplace.
63% of participants said they had never seen, heard, or been involved in a racial discrimination incident at their workplace. But the numbers are strikingly different when you ask individuals who identify as Black or African American (50%). This chasm between experiences leads to a lack of conversation, education, or action being taken.
72% of participants feel it would be extremely or very important for their company to address racial discrimination incidents. In a time when diversity, inclusion, and equity has become a top priority both for consumers and many organizations, it’s more important than ever for organizations to rectify discrimination, inequality, and bias in in the workplace company-wide.
Only 16% of participants said conversations about race happen often at their jobs. Many cited discomfort or fear as reasons, offering organizations, leaders, and teams the opportunity to set up policies that encourage open, honest, and respectful conversation.
Nearly half of participants said they were likely or extremely likely to initiate a tough conversation if they saw an incident of racial discrimination. Companies should work to identify the employees that will actively engage in diversity, inclusion, and equity policies.
Having frequent conversations about race in the workplace appears to be the exception, not the rule. Only 16% of participants said it happens often at their jobs, while 55% said it happens rarely or never.
The majority of participants (63%) indicated they have never seen, heard, or been involved in a racial discrimination incident at their workplace. But those who identified as Black or African American were more likely to indicate they have seen, heard, or been involved in racial discrimination incidents at work (50%), compared to other racial and ethnic groups. It signals that minorities often face microaggressions or feel discriminated against in the workplace, but their white counterparts don’t.
That said, if a racial discrimination incident did take place, the majority of participants (72%) feel it would be extremely or very important for their company to address the situation. Seemingly, many participants would like incidents to be handled company-wide, instead of on an individual, case-by-case basis.
When asked how likely or unlikely participants would be to initiate a conversation with a coworker if they saw an incident of racial discrimination occur in the workplace, 46% were likely or extremely likely to do so, while 31% said it was unlikely or extremely unlikely they would. Among those likely to start the conversation, they feel that open lines of communication help to create healthy workplaces. Those who were unlikely attributed their hesitancy to race being an uncomfortable or inappropriate topic to discuss in a professional setting.
The feeling of being uncomfortable showed up a lot in participants’ responses, so in order to gather qualitative data on the subject, we asked participants to share how comfortable or uncomfortable they would feel having a conversation. Most leaned toward feeling comfortable or neutral, with only 21% of participants finding it extremely uncomfortable or uncomfortable.
Among those who would find it uncomfortable, 45% said it’s because they fear offending coworkers, followed by 20% who fear professional retaliation. Which is perhaps not surprising, considering there’s often significant professional risk associated with speaking up and voicing concerns. Companies should consider training employees on how to handle tough conversations, and set up policies that encourage open, honest, but respectful conversation.
About 12% said they’re uncomfortable having conversations because they don’t know enough about racial inequality and discrimination, which offers an opportunity for professional education. Most participants (80%) expressed some level of interest in getting resources on how to discuss racial discrimination, and a near majority (49%) said they’d be extremely or very interested in those resources. Respondents who identified as a Democrat indicated higher levels of interest in getting resources on how to talk about racial discrimination than those who identified as a Republican or Independent. Most respondents (62%) who identified as a Democrat were either extremely interested or very interested in getting resources.
Currently, participants are relying on social media and (49%) news articles (47%) to educate themselves and others. That’s in line with their resource wish list, with participants saying they’d be interested in more resources on social media (40%), documentaries (39%), and movies (35%).