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Be aware: bigotry in the workplace can have long term effects on employee mental health.

At this point, everybody knows prioritizing inclusion is a worthwhile endeavor for any organization. Diversity initiatives are becoming indispensable across the board, from Fortune 500 companies to startups. And it’s not just HR managers who are spearheading this change. Employees at all levels in all departments share the responsibility of keeping the gates to their organizations as wide open as possible.

Championing inclusion isn’t just the right thing to do; it makes good business sense. As we wrote in a previous blog post, employees who are part of a diverse team report higher levels of satisfaction and company loyalty, and diverse organizations are more productive, creative, resilient, and profitable.

Despite the irrefutable evidence, however, there are still people who doubt the value of inclusion. Some think opening the door to certain groups means closing the door on talent. Others deny their organizations have a diversity problem in the first place. Mentalities like these are dangerous. Ignoring the need for diversity creates toxic work environments that, at best, stifle growth and innovation for the company, and at worst, become extremely unsafe for marginalized employees.

Harassment, bigotry, bullying, and other forms of discrimination in the workplace can be psychologically draining on employees. The constant fear of interacting with hostile coworkers takes its toll on a person’s mental well-being and can lead to long term illness.

This recently happened in Montréal where an employee was subject to routine racist abuse from his coworkers. In an interview with La Presse (English summary), the victim explained how the torment caused him to suffer frequent headaches, heart palpitations, and insomnia. He was subsequently diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and took his employer to court, where the judge ultimately ruled in his favor. It was determined that he undoubtedly endured a workplace injury and was due workers’ compensation.

As extreme as this example might sound, it’s not difficult to find similar cases of discrimination leading to physical and mental health problems. Light teasing, “innocent” jokes, and microaggressions can also cause a host of mental illnesses related to stress, anxiety, and depression because they make employees feel unsafe and unwelcome.

The evidence confirming the importance of diversity is overwhelming. If you’re wondering how your organization can be more inclusive, check out our article 10 critical ways to empower women and minorities in the workplace, and then read highlights from our Ask the Expert session with Michael Bach, Cornell-certified diversity professional and advanced practitioner (CCDP/AP).

Our employee wellness platform is also packed with resources from various experts on making workplaces more accommodating, being respectful of colleagues, and managing cross-cultural communication. To learn more, book a free walk-through today.