5 Strategies for Dealing With Diversity in the Workplace
By: Tom Ryan
Diversity in the workplace is important to running a successful business — heterogeneous groups deliver better solutions and critical analysis, so you must structure and run your company in a way that promotes diversity. By adopting the attitude of “not seeing color,” you run the risk of treating people insensitively. Barriers exist — it is up to you to deal with them appropriately.
You must recognize that eople have differences, be they physical, generational or cultural, and you cannot pretend that these barriers have been broken down. Instead, celebrate the differences among your employees, and encourage them to let their individualities show. For example, don’t hesitate to ask someone from another culture about their culture’s etiquette practices — their knowledge could prove useful to your business. Do not pigeonhole your employees. An employee’s worth comes from more than his ethnicity or age.
Acting fairly and acting uniformly are different, and only one enables you to successfully deal with diversity in your workplace. Don’t be fooled into thinking that by treating everyone exactly the same, you are demonstrating a fair attitude and respecting diversity. Instead, treat people fairly and respect the differences that make them who they are. For example, don’t schedule a mandatory meeting that falls on a religious holiday — it demonstrates an insensitivity and may breed resentment and foster feelings of being left out in any employees that are unable to attend.
Focus On Yourself
Diversity is an issue that you must manage in the workplace,and it starts with managing your own attitude and behavior. For example, examine your behavior in job interviews. When an applicant of a certain ethnicity or gender comes in, do you make assumptions that he must prove or disprove during the interview? How do you respond to different styles of communication? Self-awareness is key to developing a safe, fair workplace for a diverse group of employees.
As a manager or business owner, you probably already conduct employee reviews and assessments. When preparing these reviews, you must also examine your employees’ attitudes, particularly how they work with others. If you notice that an employee only delegates tasks to people of a certain race, or if an employee discounts the ideas of people below or above a certain age, it is your responsibility to address the issue. Identify issues among your employees and bring them up when assessing their performance.
When you identify diversity-related issues in the workplace, discuss them with your employees in a nonconfrontational manner. For example, encourage employees to work with others of different backgrounds or generations. Initiating these types of interactions encourages your employees to learn more about communication styles, talents and goals – their own and those of their co-workers
For more information please contact Diversity Enterprises at www.diversityprogram.net or www.juryconsulting.com. Marshall Hennington, Ph.D. can be reached at (646)375-2098, (310) 205-5510 or (305) 914-3769