Many organizations celebrate diversity and sabotage inclusion
We often hear about “diversity and inclusion” these days. The two words are connected like peanut butter and jelly. However, the emphasis is usually on the D. We don’t spend much time understanding what the I really means — and we don’t recognize the things we do to sabotage it.
I think of diversity and inclusion in terms of an equation of two independent variables (bear with me — I am an engineer).
Awesomeness is a function of Diversity TIMES Inclusion: A = D * I
You can have the most diverse workforce in the world, but if people are not given the freedom to be themselves and contribute in the way they are wired, you will not reach creative critical mass as an innovative organization and become truly AWESOME.
Maximizing this equation (maximizing the awesomeness!) depends on fully (and truly) embracing diversity — in all its currencies —by behaving in ways that encourage everyone to bring their best to the table.
Even if I seem to have checked all the boxes and assembled the most diverse team possible, we still may fail to achieve awesomeness - if we fail to understand and promote inclusion.
Inclusion means having an open mind wrt things like style, culture, dress and personality.
How do we sabotage inclusion? There are a million ways — here are just a few:
- Insisting (unnecessarily) that everyone meet a particular dress code
- Expecting everyone to emote and communicate the same way
- Chastising others when they get excited or speak loudly — or chastising people for NOT getting visibly excited
- Criticizing someone for not approaching a problem the way you think it should be done
- Getting angry when someone does not allow you to drive a conversation the way you want it to go
- Talking over someone who is soft spoken or holds a different perspective
- Deliberately undercutting someones contribution by eye rolling, side conversations, or conversational evasion
- Holding back information that someone else may use to support a point you disagree with
- Providing anonymous and damaging feedback during 360 degree performance reviews when you have never raised the concern directly
- Labeling any behavior one does not like as “unprofessional”
SOAPBOX WARNING: One of the most dangerous word to use today is “unprofessional”. This word is used as a cover for every kind of prejudice and character assassination. If you find yourself about to use this word in talking about a colleague go wash out your mouth with soap.
Where is your blindspot?
We all have preferred work modes and work environments. What are your pet peeves? Think twice about them — are they REALLY sacrosanct? For example:
- Frank thinks James is sub par because he sometimes wears shorts and flip flops to work when he is isolated at his desk all day developing software.
- James get irritated when the Quality Engineer Bridget insists that he follow procedures when releasing a software drop?
- Bridget thinks Juan is less than his peers because he was educated at a school she does not think much of.
- Juan thinks Frank should retire because he is over 50 and a bit stodgy.
- And everyone dislikes Ethel because she talks and laughs way too loudly.
It is a vicious circle. (As an over 50 person myself, I think Frank would happily receive a generous payout to retire if offered — just sayin…)
Look at the people that irritate you the most and ask yourself what it is that upsets you about them.
Once you identify the cause of your angst, ask yourself if it really matters. If the issue is a lack of ethics, or inability to perform job functions or the like — that is an issue that needs action. However, if it is simply an issue of personality, culture or style then you may need to open your heart and mind.
We carry a boat load of prejudices around with us — and not just the obvious ones like race, gender, and sexuality. We need to do better at seeing our prejudices, and recognizing our reluctance to “accept” alternate ways of thinking. We need to accept that others may approach problems or communicate differently. In fact — that is what we are going for here, right?
We DO benefit from establishing a diverse team. But having a diverse team is not enough. We need to be willing to go outside our comfort zone and accept them as they are — not as we want them to be.
We are less when we don’t include everyone.
Stuart Milk, global LGBT human rights activist and political speaker
Including everyone means tolerating — even celebrating differences.
We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity. We need to give each other space so that we may both give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing, and inclusion.
When we open our minds and hearts to diversity and meet others on their ground — without preconceptions and unrealistic expectations— the sky is the limit.