Is the office racist

Fight against racism in German companies"Only a very, very small part actually means it seriously"

Katja Scherer: Since the murder of the American George Floyd at the end of May by an American police officer, there have been more and more demonstrations against racism around the world. In Germany, too, tens of thousands of people took to the streets in many cities at the weekend. It's not just about police violence, but also about the fact that in the USA, for example, people with dark skin have significantly poorer job opportunities. The management consultant Jürgen Schlicher has been coaching companies in dealing with racism for over 15 years. How is it in Germany? Is racism a big problem in everyday working life?

Jürgen Schlicher: You can actually only ask that if you don't have this experience yourself. I have been doing the racism workshops in companies for many, many years, what kind of stories we get to hear, what experiences black people have, what experiences people with an immigrant background have, that is absolutely unbelievable. If you don't know, if you don't want to admit it, just have a look on Twitter #SchwarzesDeutschland, there are a lot of black people posting what happens to them every day in Germany in the world of work.

"This is systematically sorted out in the personnel administration"

Clipper: What is happening to them, can you give specific examples?

Schlicher: This is based on this overabundance, that people are constantly being grabbed by the hair, that people are constantly asked where are you from, and the answer is not enough to say that you come from Cologne or Düsseldorf. People perceive this as an assault because they notice that other colleagues are not asked such things or that an answer is always correct. And then it actually continues with the questions of who is actually being promoted, who is allowed into customer contact. I actually still have quotes from the last few years, I can't put a black employee at the front of the counter in a bank, that's not possible. There is such a hasty obedience, because perhaps the customers could have had any difficulties, things are actually sorted out systematically at the personnel administration.

Clipper: Can you say that this affects a certain area or branches of the economy particularly?

Schlicher: Yes, so in our experience, where businesses are very male-dominated, they are also very homogeneous as a whole, i.e. the smaller the proportion of women, the smaller the proportion of people with an immigrant background and black people will probably be because there There is such a high degree of homogeneity that people who are responsible for hiring other people don't even think of saying, oh, we have to ensure diversity.

Dossier: Racism (picture alliance / NurPhoto / Beata Zawrzel)

"Then these are supposedly isolated cases"

Clipper: Do companies recognize this problem, not in relation to diversity as a whole, but rather the problem of racism in their own ranks?

Schlicher: It's just said very quickly, no, we don't have anything like that. If there are cases that then become public, then these are supposedly isolated cases. If you then look a bit behind the scenes, you notice that the common clichés we have in society are reflected one-to-one in the company. And there are quite a number of companies that have been saying for years, for example through the Diversity Charter, that we need something like diversity management. And a very small number of those who say that also say: And we need anti-discrimination measures in our company. All companies are actually obliged to do this, they must have anti-discrimination officers, they must also train their employees accordingly, but that is actually only a very, very small part that firstly fulfills these requirements and secondly actually means it seriously and actually means it seriously before Background that, of course, teamwork in a company is only possible if people are recognized based on how qualified they are - and not because they are men, women, blacks or immigrants.

"The Diversity Charter is not enough"

Clipper: In other words, you mentioned this voluntary commitment, the Diversity Charter, that does not seem to work that well. How could you manage to make racism disappear from the German economy, from everyday German business life, or at least be minimized as a first step?

Schlicher: I would like to contradict you. The Diversity Charter, I think it's very, very important and I also think it's very important that companies sign it. But that's not all. But there is, and we have been advising a number of companies on these topics for many years, the possibility of saying, okay, we need something like an emergency plan, if a person experiences something like discrimination, where does he have to go contact, what is the reaction then, what are the measures that are then taken. And what's more, unfortunately, sucks, but we have to do it, nitpicking. We have to look, we may unintentionally discriminate, so it looks like we do not end up with certain groups of people in the company because of the personnel policy that we operate, and why is that and how can we change that. And maybe we won't get around quotas either.

"In most cases, companies buy themselves freely"

Clipper: That would have been my next question too. So obviously the change in companies itself is proceeding quite slowly. Does the legislature have to improve this? And if you say quota, how exactly could you go about it?

Schlicher: So this is not new territory, there are a number of countries that have long been leading us into this. For example, you could say that funding is only available when people commit themselves. So to speak, not discriminating in recruitment practice, you could basically do that. I think the discussion in Germany is still a long way off from that. You have just noticed what protests it always hails when you talk about a women's quota, but in fact it will be the same in other areas. At the moment we actually only have it with people with disabilities, where it is said that we need a fixed quota for this. This sometimes works, but in most cases companies buy themselves free because the awareness has not been raised that all people in this society, regardless of what prerequisites they have, can be very, very helpful if I have them their prospects in the company.

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