How to get rid of prejudice at work?
The starting point should always be that all employees are equal.
We asked four working life experts how to cut down prejudice towards employees with immigrant background in the workplace. Read our survey results below.
“Improving attitudes often starts with the employer. Day-to-day contacts and experience help in this situation. The employer may have a lot of prejudice when hiring the first employee with immigrant background but when this threshold has been overcome, biases can disappear. I’d like to see employers not thinking about the background of the employee but the content and quality of his or her work. I feel that we often focus on whether a person from another cultural background can handle his or her work. I’ve worked in Austria for a long time and I preferred to be treated as any other employee. You shouldn’t always focus on background and differences.”
Kaisu Keisala-Kaseja, Immigrant Entrepreneurship Coordinator, The Federation of Finnish Enterprises
“In my work with intercultural families I have seen many families facing prejudice or being its target. It would be important to see any employee as part of somebody’s family, as somebody we could know. Putting oneself to another person’s position could also help. We can all recognize our own prejudices. It’s not always easy as we’d often like to think that we are much more tolerant and liberal than what we actually are.
The starting point is to treat everyone equally. If you tend to think that an immigrant is better employed as a cleaning person than a director, you should think through your own prejudices. Also in recruitment situations you should overcome your prejudices and focus on the skills of the job seeker instead. Anonymous recruitment is a good way of reducing bias because then you have to focus on the applicant’s skills and not on how he or she looks or is called. It is more difficult to carry out in certain situations but it could help to reduce prejudice in recruitment.”
Aino Jones, Project Manager, Familia’s Partner’s Path project
“There’s no single answer but if employers hire employees with immigrant background and their experience is good, they are encouraged to hire more immigrant employees. You always need somebody to ‘break the ice’. It’s important that the employee can show his or her skills and make them visible. This especially applies to situations where the employee has no work experience or educational background in Finland. I believe that we could achieve a lot by raising awareness and spreading information in the workplace. And it’s not only about the employer but also the working community the new employee joins. It’s shocking that we still experience discrimination based on physical appearance or origin in the labour market, in 2018.”
Päivi Ruotsala, At Home in Finland project, Regional Coordinator for Southwest Finland and Satakunta
“The starting point should be that all employees are equal. Language skills are often a challenge to immigrant employees. When that happens, you should give these employees better guidance. You can reduce bias by not building up a biased image of an employee with immigrant background in your own head in the first place. Any employee is a human being, full stop. Already at first encounter, you should think about welcoming the new employee without thinking about his or her cultural background. I’ve seen people automatically switch to English if the new employee’s Finnish skills are poor. But how do you know if English is the language the employee communicates in? If you’re aiming at best results in the workplace I think you’d better speak Finnish, also to help immigrant employees to learn the language better.”
Berhan “Ben” Ahmadi, First Vice-Chair of PAM Council (Photo: Lassi Kaaria)