Hi all

Recently, I was asked by a senior member of staff to guess the number of ethnic minorities we have in the business based on employee names.

I was really uncomfortable with this request and refused to do it, but the business just found someone else who was willing.

Personally, I find this morally and ethically wrong, but others in the business seem to accept it as common practice and I wanted to get other peoples thoughts and perspective.

So, let me know, what are your views on the subject?

Many thanks


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  • Hi Sarah,

    This request seems completely at odds with what I have learned about being an HR professional so far and i'm really surprised that it's come from the head of HR! I think if it were me then I would try to compile the data from actual ethnic background information and then present this to the manager by saying that I was uncomfortable with guessing, so I found the accurate information instead. I think you'd have to be prepared to back up your feelings with reasons why it made you uncomfortable. 

    If, as you say, they've already found someone else to do it, then I think it would still be worth speaking to your mangager about it and explaining why you felt you had to refuse the request.

    Have you come across any other examples of this sort of thing during your employment there? If so, you may need to decide whether your personal values are compatible with the department/company.

    Either way I think it's important to discuss the issue with the manager in question and highlight the problems otherwise the likelyhood that she will change is slim, and the chances of her attitude filtering down to the rest of the department is probably high.

    Good luck.



  • Morning Sarah

    A difficult situation I agree.

    The manager seems to have lost sight of the purpose of why the information is being collected.  It may be a case of trying to understand what it is they are trying to achieve?

    I can assure you this is not common practice and really as most things it boils down to culture.  Does the business want to be open and transparent and talk to employees about the reason why the data is being collected or simply guess and keep everyone in the dark?

    In addition if the business is planning to make decisions on the data or provide the data to a statutory body (sometimes government departments make requests for data) then commercially and ethically how they are approaching this is flawed.

    As an HR professional sometimes we have to use our influencing skills to persuade managers there are different ways of achieving the same aim. Sure sometimes they take slightly longer and are more hassle but cutting corners generally never ends well.  It is also about managing risk and reputation more than ever organisations and the way in which they operate are being questioned and held to account.

    Some organisations may choose that this is a risk they are happy to take, which is fine, if you are the business owner then its your decision.  But whether employees choose to accept this is a different matter.

    Anyway I hope this helps.

    Good luck


    • Hi Sarah

      Thank you for your response.

      The difficulty is that it is the Head of HR that has asked me to guess employees ethinicities so she is much better at influencing than I am.

      The information was needed for and Inclusion and Diveristy award submission which is, apparently, very importantant to the business.

      As it is the Head of HR making this decision then I assume it is a risk that the business can accept...I'm just not sure I can.

      Thanks again


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