Our NHS People

Managing to avoid discrimination

When we’re stressed, it’s harder to take the time to truly consider the needs of everyone in the team, and also, it’s more important than ever. These skills are useful in your everyday management role – and not just during the Covid-19 event.

The Fellowship

Being in the out-group means not being part of the group fellowship. It’s a manager’s responsibility to pause and think how your shifts and department operate and whether you are being as inclusive as you can be. For example, do you organise rotas/shifts fairly, do you involve everyone in simple social activities such as having a cup of tea or coffee? In pre-Covid-19 times, did you organise social events that were hard for some staff to join in with?

Aiming to be inclusive for all requires thought and consideration. This is because some discrimination is simply unintended or shows a lack of thought.

Be aware

Knowing your staff is key:

  • Does anyone on your team have a disability or health condition that means you might need to adjust their work patterns? This is known as reasonable adjustments.
  • Are any of your staff recently pregnant or have given birth? Have you ensured you have spoken to them about this and how their work needs may have changed?
  • Do you have colleagues who are fasting during the month of Ramadan? Have you spoken to them about how they will manage at this time? For support, see our guide on How to support staff fasting during Ramadan.

Be consistent

The key is to be consistent and fair, seeking to treat everyone with equity: being mindful and supportive of different or special circumstances. Make time in your team meetings to discuss why fairness matters and seek internal advice, such as from HR or equality and inclusion team.

For many people, their identity is part of who they are, whether they are a person of colour, from a certain part of the UK or world, their membership of a religious group or their sexuality.

Celebrating identity allows people to feel they belong and are valued. Your team members will be able to share with you if and how they’d like to celebrate.

Encourage your team to speak up if they think they may be experiencing discrimination. Acknowledge this might be difficult and it is OK to find someone to trust to speak to.

Again, encourage your team to tell you if they feel you have overstepped a line and be prepared for how you will receive and respond to this. Sometimes being in the in-group means you simply do not see or recognise discrimination.

Whilst identity is important, categorisation of people into ‘them’ and ‘us’ (or identifying who is in the in-group and who is in the out-group) is dangerous. Being inclusive requires avoiding categorising people.

During times of stress, such as now in the Covid-19 pandemic, people often reinforce group boundaries in order to deal with perceived threats. This can lead to bullying and discrimination as out-group members become targets simply because they are ‘not one of us.’ When we categorise people, we risk over-simplifying others into groups of negative beliefs such as lazy, inflexible, unwilling and so forth. This is the basis for discrimination, bias and stereotyping.

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