Hate incidents against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) have risen since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a February press release from Stop AAPI Hate, there have been over 2,808 firsthand accounts of anti-Asian racism and discrimination incidents around the United States since March 19, 2020. Some of these assaults were verbal or physical harassment. Others were workplace discrimination and refusal of service at businesses.
Whether your employees are being bullied or they're bullying customers, here are guidelines for employers to reduce anti-Asian bullying in the workplace.
The first step in solving a problem is acknowledging that it exists. Now is not the time to question motives when an Asian-American colleague feels as if there is toxic behavior in the workplace. Workplace bullying, in general, can reveal itself as an accumulation of subtle slights that gradually build over time. If human resources or leadership can begin the conversation around racism and workplace bullying, those that are being hurt or who are witnessing these episodes might feel more comfortable speaking up.
Once management has begun to speak out against AAPI hate, or hate against any other people of color, the next step is to open the doors for them to seek help. Employee assistance programs, mental health resources or employee resource groups can be of great use to those who are seeking someone to listen and/or relate to their experience. They may look to HR to report incidents, ask for transfers or schedule flexibility so they can avoid a potentially harmful situation. StopAAPI.org is also a website for reporting hate incidents against those in the AAPI community.
If there have been racist or hateful incidents within the workplace, it's important for HR and management to keep records of these events. These records can help if the victim needs to report the incident to police, to prevent workplace retaliation and to share with future employers. Records of these incidents can also be used during intervention that may lead to disciplinary action, including termination.
Employers can offer support for those who are facing hate-crimes and discrimination by educating themselves and their employees. Speak out about it. Stand with those who are hurting. Hiring and including more diverse staff is helpful, as well as acknowledging racism exists. These best practices can help prevent and reduce anti-Asian or other racial bullying in the workplace.