More than half of the younger workers in today’s workplaces self-describe as having witnessed or experienced racism and gender discrimination, compared with only 33% of workers over the age of 55 who report instances of racism and 30% over the age of 55 reporting gender discrimination.
These data were gathered by Harris Polling and reported recently in the WSJ – and they should be of decided interest to the managers and leaders in today’s organizations, because these are the people who are working diligently to incorporate the group of new workers into the culture of the workplace. The same sort of responses are also reported for ageism, with slightly over half of the younger people in the sample feeling discriminated against because of age. In other words, it’s a “snowflake phenomenon,” as it were – with younger people melting quickly at the slightest indication and with at least half of the younger people in the sample population believing that the cards are stacked against them. And, why would this be? For one thing, people who are just entering the workforce have grown up during a time when a disproportionate amount of emphasis was being placed on such things in the daily press. Thus, it’s natural perhaps that they would believe that they should subscribe to these theories and believe that those things generally exist. And, for another, this group of people have gone through their public schooling, and even university, during a time when adults tended to coddle them and attend to their every whim – think about the “trophies for all,” no matter if one played well or not; as well as the movement not to squelch little egos by calling them out for untoward behaviors; and, even at the universities, “safe spaces” to protect the participants against the smallest of things. This is not to say, of course, that instances of racism, ageism, and sexism do not exist – but to find such a disproportionate number believing that they do should be troubling. In other words, if things don’t go the way of this group of people new to the workforce, then it has to be the fault of something or someone discriminating again them. Certainly, this realization points the way for the work ahead for managers and other executives in organizations who endeavor to bring all workers into a cultural alignment that can benefit all employees as well as their organizations.