South Africa is still in its infancy when it comes to the creation of a new national culture of social cohesion and nation building. This is because there are the wrongs from the past that must be corrected and incorporated into a new corporate culture. Racism is a bottom line issue and it impacts on productivity and profitability.

One should realise that racism in the work environment is often subtle, making it difficult to pinpoint exact actions or words. Racism, even if subtle, creates barriers to teamwork, undermines confidence, and affects career goals of the people within the organisation.

Racism shouldn’t be tolerated in any area of life. Our Constitution prohibits it as well as various laws including the Equality Law. It’s therefore important to take steps to prevent it in your workplace because employees need to feel respected and safe in order to be productive. The only way to create a positive work environment, where employees can work towards common organisational goals, is by removing organisational barriers that hinder cooperation including all forms of discrimination including racism.

We discuss a few pointers below that may help you to effectively deal with racism in the workplace.


You wouldn’t allow a poisonous snake to stay in your home simply because it hasn’t made any attempts to attack you yet. The same holds true for potentially destructive attitudes and behaviour. Set rules and policies in your company with no tolerance for any discriminatory language or behaviour.


Do not further victimise the victim. Create an environment of open communication, enabling the victim to come forward to discuss the issue. Set specific procedures to investigate claims of racism.


Deal with the issue immediately and be sure to keep in line with your company’s disciplinary procedures


Set reasonable and acceptable policies and procedures to deal with racism in your company.

While these are a few important steps to take when dealing with racism at work, it would be in your best interest to co-0pt professional help from a company that specialises in dealing with racism.. Let us help your organisation to manage issues of discrimination whatever they may be.

By Teresa Oakley-Smith
Managing Director of Diversi-T