Last Updated Jun 26, 2007 11:43 AM EDT
On the day of the diversity seminar, several of our black employees did not show up for the event, claiming it was some sort of protest about the company's handling of the incident.
I don't want to do anything that will further the racial tensions, but at the same time I made it clear that those who did not attend would face a punishment. Where's the line?
Racial tension is a poison for any company, and, without knowing all the details, it sounds like you've been taking an active approach to help resolve those issues. But now you've been thrown into it head-on. Your boycotting employees have placed you in the middle of the issue. They're testing you.
Your best option it to not take sides in the issue -- the more it is presented as two sides, the longer the issue will last -- and instead do exactly what you said you would do: punish the absentees.
Mandatory knows no color.
By allowing your black employees to get away with skipping the event, you would be treating them differently when equality is the ultimate goal.The diversity seminar was your attempt at a day of healing, and anyone who chose not to attend voted to delay that healing process.
The trickiest part will be coming up with a suitable punishment. Avoid anything involving shame; that's not what you're after. You want something that returns those employees to the fold, but also has the taste of penance. If you can find a solution that incorporates some of the diversity goals from the seminar, that would be best.
Your decision may not go over well at first, but in the end it will send the correct message to your employees: that you're a boss that treats all men and women equal.
Have a workplace-ethics dilemma? Ask it here, or email firstname.lastname@example.org