Ah, this is something I may be able to support on. Then again, I do have a bias as my degree is in conflict resolution and in particular, workplace conflict. One of my areas of interest is actually organizational silence and it’s related phenomena, gossip.
Eng, to my eye what you describe fits well with what I would frame as “latent conflict”, likely due to essentially, the psychological defense mechanisms of leadership. If we’re thinking about flows of communication, in organizations, these flows tend to be oriented horizontally (among peers) and vertically (between ranks/levels).
The tendency of leadership is that they outwardly want say, an open door policy, but are also keenly aware that an open door means that anyone can come in. Thus, vertical conflict management systems tend to be implemented by those at the top to get information from those below.
Here’s another simple thing; the human mind strives to maintain a positive self-image, which results in attempts to explain or to justify actions after the fact. In a nutshell, the people at the top want to believe that they are good people (however they define that). Negative feedback threatens that positive self-image and so to protect itself, the mind will subconsciously be motivated to defend.
In most cases, this means that the people at the top say they want feedback, but are actively (though often subconsciously) avoiding it. How? By adding layers, and by controlling the timeline for resolution or management.
Now, the people who aren’t at the top quickly learn this. When people aren’t listened to, they stop talking. In organizations, when legitimate channels of grievance aren’t listened to, people stop using them.
Cue gossip. Not only does this create in-group bonding, it can quickly evolve into a way of those without titles to get things done. Most organizations have informal leaders. Next time you’re in a meeting, pay attention to who is being listened to and who isn’t; the titles might not match up with those who are being listened to.
Now, I’ll freely admit that I hate HR and that this is a bias of mine, but as a consultant, I feel like it’s important ( in the American context anyway) to understand that while there are good HR people out there, by and large, HR exists as the organization’s condom: to keep the organization from getting sued.
I bring this up because you mention that they are listening to you. It may be worth your while to get a clear picture of why. In the event that you may be thinking of leaving, it may be some small comfort for you to know that the real costs of employee turnover are often 1/2 or a full year’s salary to replace and then train the new person, not to mention productivity and opportunity costs.
Anyway, one reason why you might find the situation an analog, is because racism is a form of oppression, and many work practices are forms of oppression too. I’m sorry to hear that you’re going through that, but if you’d like to discuss it more, or if I can send useful materials your way, let me know, because that sounds like it sucks balls.