: How much does racial inequity at work cost employers? The answer: Billions


A year after George Floyd’s killing turned racial inequity and justice into a key theme for policing, politics and business, a new survey shows how far America still needs to come in the workplace — and what the price of inaction may be.

More than a third (34%) of Black workers said they believe they have been treated unfairly at work, while 17% of Asian American workers and 16% of Hispanic workers say they’ve been treated unfairly on the job, according to a report released Monday by the Society for Human Resource Management. Only 8% of white workers feel the same way, the survey said.

Almost half of the people (48%) who feel they’ve been mistreated reported coping with the experience by calling out sick or missing work, 45% said they put less effort into their duties as a result of the experience, while 35% took longer than they needed to accomplish tasks and 28% spent time on non-work activities, the survey said.

“The situation goes beyond a crisis of employer-employee relations,” said Alex Alonso, the Society for Human Resource Management’s chief knowledge officer. “It really actually has a steep financial cost.”

In fact, Alonso added, “It threatens the success of any enterprise.”

Only 8% of white workers said they believe they have been treated unfairly at work

The full one-year price of that fallout from mistreatment on U.S. businesses: $58.7 billion, according to the professional association’s projections.

The more than 1,300-person survey was conducted from late August to early September. Though a lot has happened since then, different polling from earlier this month suggests there’s still a long way to go on race relations in the workplace and beyond.

In the general population, 42% of people said things were worse off than they were a year ago, according to a separate NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll (which is actually the smallest number of people with the view since 2015), while 17% of participants in that poll said relations were better.

Nearly two-thirds of Black poll participants (61%) said they often or sometimes experienced discrimination, yet 84% of white participants said they rarely or never felt like they were the target of bias, that NPR/PBS poll found.

Society for Human Resource Management researchers found similar perception gaps when they previously polled white and Black human resource officials after Floyd’s killing on May 25, 2020.

When researchers in the latest poll asked about perceptions of mistreatment over a five-year window and the associated cost, the results were even more sobering.

Approximately 42% of Black workers, 26% of Asian-American workers and 21% of Hispanic workers said there were instances in that time when they felt they were treated differently on the job because of their race or ethnicity.

More than half of people who felt mistreated over a five-year span said it was a co-worker’s fault. Less than half cited their boss.

The five-year price of turnover from workers leaving jobs they didn’t feel treated them equally or didn’t equally make room for their career advancement is $171.9 billion, it added.

More than half of people who felt mistreated over a five-year span (54%) said it was a co-worker’s fault. 45% said their boss was treating them unfairly.

Though the new survey focuses on the toll of racial inequity and perceived racial inequity in the workplace, other analysis say racism’s price tag goes far higher when stepping out farther.

The longstanding racial gaps when it comes to wages, housing, education and investment have cost America’s economy $16 trillion, according to a Citi

report released in September.

The new Society for Human Resources Management does suggest a path forward for companies.

Decades of diversity programming at work haven’t made much of an impact in Alonso’s view. But workers polled in a different survey overwhelmingly — 97% — said empathy is a key ingredient to a healthy workplace, while 92% said empathy is a quality they look for on the job hunt.

Researchers there polled almost 2,500 people from March to April.

Last month, a jury found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of sescond-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for pressing his knee on Floyd’s neck over nine minutes.

Chauvin, 45, is scheduled to be sentenced in June. Chauvin is seeking a new trial.

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