This overlooked form of occupational discrimination creates mental health problems, study shows

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Workplace toxicity is a monster with many heads: injustice, abuse, discrimination, harassment, hurtfulness, and oppression. And it has many faces. In addition to gender, race, age and sexual orientation, studies show that size discrimination is also rampant in the workplace.

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TalentLMS and CultureAmp conducted a survey based on The Big Five framework to identify toxicity, looking at how often related behaviors occur. Key findings include:

  • 42% of respondents say managers at tech companies with toxic work cultures are often inconsiderate and disrespectful to employees.
  • 40% of employees report that these incidents occur frequently, while 22% say they happen occasionally.
  • 43% say discrimination and unfair treatment because of employee age occurs frequently.
  • 42% cite employee race as the most frequent reason.
  • 41% say discrimination and unfair treatment are often based on employee gender.

Weight discrimination in the workplace

One form of discrimination that often goes under the radar in a toxic work culture is size discrimination. Within Health surveyed 1,006 full-time employed Americans (67% men, 33% women, and 33.5% of respondents in larger bodies). The study found that employees at larger entities report earning an average of seven percent fewer raises than other employees. Additional takeaways from the study include:

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  • 61% of employees of larger organizations believe that their body size has been taken into consideration if they have received a promotion.
  • 32% of workers in larger entities are less likely to be promoted.
  • 27% of larger entities say they are less likely to quit or be fired (12% fewer).
  • 68% of remote employees try to hide their full body during video calls.

The study concluded that body size issues can affect workers, whether due to outright discrimination, unspoken bias, or personal insecurities. Size discrimination can increase stress and make it harder for some people to move forward in their careers, especially since workers felt that body size was a major factor in the decisions behind their promotions and raises.

Employers can create a work culture that includes scale

Good talent comes in all shapes and sizes. A one-size-fits-all culture will no longer work with recent graduates starting their careers, seeking inclusion of all types. The Within Health study recommends that managers and employees recognize any biases they may have towards others based on body size and work to overcome them in order to improve their workplaces. Additionally, she recommends workers focus on healthy coping strategies to manage stress and maintain a healthy body image. Employees may not be able to control their work environment, the study concludes, but cultivating mental health makes work a healthier place for everyone to thrive.

In May of this year, the New York City Council approved a bill that prohibits discrimination based on a person’s weight or height in employment, housing, and access to public housing. No one should ever be discriminated against based on height and weight, said New York City Mayor Eric Adams. It shouldn’t matter how tall you are or how much you weigh when you’re looking for a job, in town, or trying to rent an apartment.

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Addressing weight discrimination is long overdue, explains Amy Kim, president and chief revenue officer of PowertoFly, especially as it pertains to hiring. “It’s important to address all forms of discrimination, and weight discrimination is no exception,” she says. “A person’s body shape should not impact their ability to obtain or maintain employment and housing. Passing this bill would be another step forward in the fight to eliminate discrimination and promote inclusion. companies need to hire the best of the best, and the greatest talent comes in all shapes and sizes.”

According to Milena Berry, CEO of PowerToFly, creating a diverse work culture isn’t just about hiring. Different hires do not equal a diverse team. Inclusiveness must be sustained on a regular basis. Different teams require different support systems, and Berry believes this is where many companies fail. There is a lot of top talent in underrepresented communities, but they need to be supported and nurtured properly within a company to continue to perform at their best, he notes. This means that as a company’s early-career talent becomes more diverse, support systems need to be more diverse. A one-size-fits-all approach does not suit the new generation of workers. In light of graduate season and interest in hiring diverse talent, Milena shares three best practices for supporting top diverse talent:

  1. Clear career path. Underrepresented talent is less likely to understand what promotions are available to them. Clarifying career path options removes a lot of questions and discomfort.
  2. Tutoring, redefined. Traditional tutoring is powerful, but inversion mentoring, when the tide changes and early career talents are the ones answering questions and advising more experienced workers, can also have a major impact.
  3. Reflection time of the sample. This seems to facilitate connection between employees with similar experiences, as well as opportunities for people to talk and share their experiences with people who Not have the same background.

I spoke with Dimitris Tsingos, co-founder and president of Epignosis, the parent company of TalentLMS. He cites four actions business leaders can take to create a bias-free company.

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  1. Establish clear policies. The first and most critical action employers should take is to establish clear and comprehensive policies and guidelines on workplace discrimination, harassment, and bias. And not just for compliance purposes. These policies should be regularly updated and communicated to all employees. Training programs and courses focused on creating awareness, promoting respect, and educating employees about their rights and how to report and address issues of discrimination and unconscious bias will ensure that everyone is aligned.
  2. Prioritize diversity in recruiting. Equally important is prioritizing diversity and inclusion in your recruiting and hiring processes. Employers should actively seek to create a diverse workforce that represents different backgrounds, perspectives and experiences. And also consider diversity and inclusion in promotions and professional development opportunities. An inclusive workplace where employees feel they are treated fairly cannot be achieved if leadership and managerial positions are dominated by a specific gender or race.
  3. Create open communication. In general, employers should create a culture of open communication where employees feel comfortable raising concerns and reporting incidents of discrimination or unfair treatment without fear of retaliation. To achieve this, management and leadership must take such reports seriously, investigate them thoroughly, and take appropriate action to address the issues and prevent them from recurring.
  4. Practice authentic healing. Last but not least, there can be no better guideline than taking care of the well-being of your employees across all dimensions. They will recognize it, respect it and reward it.

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