Generational Perceptions of Workplace Discrimination

November 18, 2019 LRN Corporation

As the next generation joins the workforce, studies find these newly minted employees are detecting and experiencing workplace harassment and discrimination at different levels than their older colleagues.

survey of 1,100 U.S. employees conducted by Glassdoor and Harris Poll found 60% of workers said they have witnessed or been a subject of workplace discrimination based on age, race, gender or LGBTQ identity. Employees between the ages of 18 and 34 were much more likely to report discrimination.

An article on the survey in The Wall Street Journal said half of employees 18-34 reported witnessing or experiencing racism; 33% of workers 55 and older reported the same. Fifty-two percent of younger employees said they were subject to gender discrimination, compared with 30% of workers over 55. These numbers remained consistent for age-related discrimination, as well.

An increase in the number of complaints raised to HR departments, largely reported by younger employees, may be spurred on by highly publicized sexual harassment and discrimination cases that have transpired the past several years, such as those involving Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, and Les Moonves.

Since the current wave of young workers has come of age during a time of increased awareness about harassment and diversity issues, they might be more likely than older colleagues to spot and call out workplace discrimination, Carina Cortez, Glassdoor's chief people officer, told the WSJ.

Although the number of reported sexual harassment and discrimination incidents has increased 37% over the past two years compared to the prior two years, according to a survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, the rise is likely a cause of heightened awareness, as opposed to more frequent cases of harassment. That said, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says about 75% of all types of workplace harassment complaints go unreported.

Anjali Misra, a 30-year old grant writer, told WSJ she and other young colleagues often feel “powerless” to raise concerns, especially when there is no formal human resources department, or when it’s unclear who a junior employee should trust in a challenging situation.

Situations such as these drive home the necessity of quality employee education and sensitivity training. Equally important is for companies to cultivate an ethical culture that allows for employees to speak up. A good first step is for an organization to clearly define and express its purpose and values.

LRN research has found employees in values-based organizations are more than three times as likely to call out and report misconduct as those in autocratic ones.

It’s worth keeping in mind younger workers might be less forgiving of workplace mistreatment than their older colleagues, and companies may find new talent walking out the door if they don’t address these issues.

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