In a situation such as this, the first thing that you need to do is to ask yourself the question: Where can I get support? This is because, if you are being discriminated against unfairly, then you are likely to need support in dealing with these complex issues. You should therefore identify out of those people in your life that you feel able to trust, who would be the best person, or persons, to support you in dealing with this matter. Once you have gained their support, the next thing to do is to look carefully at the situation. You will need to look at why it is you feel you are being discriminated against. Is there any possibility that there has been a misunderstanding? If, after careful consideration, you are still convinced that you are being discriminated against, then the next step is to ask yourself: What evidence do I have that could convince other people of the situation? If the discrimination is ongoing, then you should give careful thought to how you gather evidence. Next, you will need to decide whether you want to deal with the matter formally or informally. Dealing with it formally would involve lodging a grievance, making a formal complaint or initiating some other such formal procedure. This is another reason why support is important, as such processes can be quite stressful even if, in due course, the case is found in your favour. An informal approach, by contrast, is likely to involve approaching the person or persons concerned and expressing your concerns to them, in the hope that they will be reasonable enough to consider your points carefully and, where appropriate, make the necessary changes. Whether you opt for the formal or informal route will normally depend on three factors. First, how serious do you regard the situation as being? If you rate it as being at a low level of seriousness, then you may decide that a formal approach is too much to contend with in the circumstances. Second, how confident are you that the person or persons concerned would respond positively to an informal approach? If you are quite confident of this, then again you may decide that a formal approach is not necessary, but if your confidence level is low, then you may decide that a formal approach is the only way forward. Third, how willing are you to deal with the additional pressures that would come from adopting a formal approach? In many cases, such pressures are well worth it for the positive outcome that the process can bring. However, some people feel that they are not able to take on such additional pressures. While seeking justice and tackling discrimination are important goals to pursue, we also have to be sensitive to the pressures that are involved in tackling these issues through formal procedures. If you decide to go down the route of a formal procedure, then it will be helpful to gain the support of a trade union or a professional association representative where possible. Failing this, it is advisable that you seek the support of somebody with experience in these areas. This should be in addition to any personal support you may have already identified for yourself. Once again, you will also need to consider the question of evidence. It is important to try and avoid the situation of one person’s word against another. You should therefore think carefully about how you could convince a third party that you have been discriminated against.

Dr Neil Thompson                       

Neil’s website and blog are at www.neilthompson.info

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