Workplace diversity is extremely important in the modern workplace. The more diverse an organization is, the more happiness, camaraderie, and success are present as well. Many companies are recognizing the importance of diversity and inclusion, but there are still a lot of improvements that need to be made. Fortunately, there are tools out there that can help leaders create an environment that includes everyone.
A diverse and inclusive workplace is proven to be more likely to succeed at company goals. According to ClearCompany, racially diverse teams outperform non-diverse teams by 35 percent. But diverse teams are not as prevalent as people would like them to be. Fifty-seven percent of employees think their companies should be more diverse, ClearCompany also notes.
The Difficulty of Diversity Training
Diversity training can be difficult, however. The problem is that there is frequently too much of a focus on differences. When people are divided into categories to demonstrate diversity, it reinforces the idea of categories or “groups” of people and separation. In these cases, instead of changing people’s attitudes, diversity training solidifies them.
Historically, affirmative action was put in place to compensate for pervasive and entrenched discrimination that prevented women and minorities from succeeding in the workplace. As a result, the emphasis was on integrating groups of people into a white, male-dominated workplace. Today, although people don’t want to be discriminated against, most also don’t want to be labeled as a certain “type” or group and would prefer to be treated as an individual.
The solution to this is to focus on respectful interactions. Diversity is not about integration (which effectively involves pointing out specific groups of people) but about cultivating meaningful relationships — interacting with others in a way that is respectful and genuine, regardless of their “type.” The solution is to teach people how to treat each person as the individual they are, communicate and resolve conflict with anyone, and resist the urge to compare others to themselves.
It is human nature to be biased. Bias becomes unproductive when we allow it to control our decision making without questioning our assumptions. Rather than thinking we can eliminate all our biases, a better approach is to consciously address them by questioning the validity of our assumptions and choosing behaviors that support fairness and equity.
Fundamental attribution error is another thing that happens frequently in the workplace. It occurs when we explain someone’s behavior based on their personality traits rather than on external circumstances. For example, you pass a colleague in the hall and say hello, but the other person doesn’t respond. You think to yourself that she is rude or stuck-up. But perhaps they just received some bad news and is so preoccupied with that that they didn’t hear you.
In order to create a more diverse workplace, there are a few key areas to explore. Employee and manager behaviors should reference the importance of togetherness, and workplace design should be restructured to create a framework for inclusion in an organization. Employees should recognize what respect means to each individual and they should communicate efficiently. Managers need to focus on behaviors and perspectives necessary for successful and respectful conflict resolution before, during, and after the resolution process. Employees should exhibit behaviors that influence others to be part of the solution. Managers should give and receive feedback on negative behavior in a respectful manner. Finally, everyone needs to understand ways to surpass barriers and seek personal growth.
Both employees and managers can help improve workplace diversity and make others feel included. Below are examples of better behavior that people can strive to exhibit:
- Adapt to different working styles, approaches to communicating, and preferences for interacting
- Communicate respectfully and effectively
- Treat every person as a unique individual
- Include and encourage all coworkers to participate in all types of meetings
- Understand how personal preferences may affect personnel decisions
- Coach and mentor individuals who may be struggling to engage with others appropriately
- Manage employees individually while getting to know their personalities, unique skills, and interests
- Make decisions based on employees’ skills and abilities and the task requirements
HRDQ’s webinar Why Does Diversity Matter? explores why diversity is important and allows participants to understand the subtle ways that bias occurs. Join us to learn how to identify instances of devaluing others through subconscious behaviors and micro-inequities, establish a framework to increase inclusion at the organizational level, recognize different ways of conveying respect, address conflict productively and respectfully, and lead diversity by example to be part of the solution. Register today!
To learn more about diversity, Appreciating Diversity is a program that explores the subtle ways that diversity limitations occur and how to combat them by fostering an environment that focuses on building respectful interactions.