Next to their homes, the workplace is where Americans spend the majority of their time. Employees strive for success and recognition in their chosen professions with the hope of a fair shot at advancement. But when workplace discrimination occurs, it can have effects far beyond a stalled career. The burden and stress caused by discrimination and other forms of harassment can take a physical and sometimes mental toll on your body, compounding an already difficult situation.

A recently released study conducted by National Institute for Health (NIH) has shown a relationship between perceived discrimination in the workplace and a negative effect on both mental and physical health of the employee. Employees who have experienced discrimination have higher levels of psychological distress and health-related problems than employees who have not.

NIH conducted a meta-analysis of past studies and current literature on potential pathways linking perceived discrimination to negative health outcomes.

Information in the cross studies reviewed by NIH includes a link that suggests racial discrimination can lead to smoking, while sexual harassment and workplace bullying (hostile work environment) can lead to heavy alcohol use as a means for the employee to cope with the situation at work. Some of the physical effects include aches and pains, an increase in cardiovascular illness, breast cancer, obesity and high blood pressure most likely related to the impact of the stress. Effects are not limited to physical but also mental effects on the employee include depression, developing anxiety disorders, loss of self control leading to the employee becoming hostile or even attempting suicide.

Perceived discrimination has effects on both the employee and the work environment. These include a poor work culture when the employee losses focus and exhibits counterproductive work behaviors such as not completing tasks on time, leaving work early, and arriving late.

NIH's overall analysis of previous research supports the hypotheses that perceived discriminate may be related to both mental and physical health outcomes.

Leaders have an important role in promoting a work environment that fosters awareness and worth of a diverse workplace. It is also important to ensure all employees are aware and understand the EEO Process. Communication is key…If you're a supervisors, let your employees know you are approachable and will be available if they need to discuss issues. Lead by example, include diversity in your strategic plans and walk the talk.

By promoting cultural diversity in the workplace, employees feel valued. Advantages of workplace diversity are an enhancement of productivity from the employee. Many studies related to organizational behavior conclude that promoting cultural diversity reduces absenteeism rates and lower employee turnover.

In this world of competition, where cultural diversity has so many benefits, it deserves a place in all organizations. This will not only bring productive and happy employees to the organization but will lead to development of competencies among all employees.