questions that ask them to describe a problem they have encountered and how they
solved it—or to tell you of an idea they have implemented that worked and how they
came up with it.
Having a diverse workforce places more need on employers to manage in such a way
that respects each individual’s perspective harmoniously. Leaders must create a culture where people feel they can be accepted for their authentic selves—where they are
eager to share their ideas, even when they are opposite of others, and where others
are eager to learn from those differences. It’s not that every thought or idea has to be
“right,” but that leaders can identify components that have value and recognize that
there is often more than one “right” answer.
There can be stress in dealing with people who are different than you, which is
known as “diversity tension.” This tension exists when you work with cultures and
situations that vary from your norm. Recognize this tension is a natural reaction and
can be managed; reconcile differences, achieve agreement and learn to trust other
people’s perspectives and beliefs. Encourage and reward differing opinions. Appoint
mentors for those new to the team. If leaders and managers can’t handle conflict and
disagreements in a positive way, no staff member will be able to, either.
SHAKE UP THE STATUS QUO
Encourage dissenting opinions. Ask questions to solicit disagreement. Make it acceptable to have differing opinions and express them. The best decisions and ideas often
come when you eliminate the longest-standing traditions.
>> Did I include all considerations?
>> What am I missing?
>> What can go wrong?
>> Give me one negative aspect.
>> If this solution/answer/action wasn’t available, what else could be done?
HELP PEOPLE OVERCOME BIASES
For those who embrace diversity, it’s difficult to admit they may have biases or prejudices. However, it’s wise to recognize that we all are likely to have some biases in some
form, at some time. No one is perfect and there may be biases just under the surface that
a person doesn’t even know he or she has. Once acknowledged, you can keep your antenna up and tuned to identify them and thus, be able to do something to change course.
Incorrect or unfair biases are dangerous, and part of the danger is that people aren’t
aware of, or deny, them. As a manager, you have your beliefs, plus the beliefs of your
staff to manage. When inappropriate biases exist in the workplace, effectiveness is reduced, camaraderie is harmed, discrimination occurs and self-esteem suffers—
nothing good comes of it.
Changing your (or others’) beliefs is not always easy. Sometimes, education and exposure are enough to move past sterotypes and remove biases. Sometimes, it’s deeper.
The question is: How can you, as a manager, remove employees’ biases? A good first
step, of course, is that all leaders of the or-
ganization strive to have beliefs that are
not biased; that they embrace openness
and acceptance and appreciation for dif-
ferences. Have the CEO write a diversity
statement that is posted on the company’s
website and incorporate it into the HR
If biases and beliefs among your employees need addressing, or you’d like
them to have more empathy for those
who are different, I highly recommend
you use an expert. A real expert—
someone trained or experienced in how to
remove biases—perhaps even a psychologist. Don’t play with this at work: Don’t
believe you can read about diversity
training and lead a talk that will change
deep-seated prejudices. Incorrectly handled, feelings can get hurt, damage can
be done to the workplace, or worse.
Success goes beyond tolerance to honoring, embracing and incorporating people’s differences. The ultimate assessment
of your inclusion efforts is the answer to:
Are diverse ideas implemented? If the answer is “no,” the causes of inaction must
be identified and hard changes might be
Collect differing talents and put them
together. Strive for decisions and ideas
gathered from differing thoughts and
opinions. Live in a multi-cultural world.
That’s beautiful music.
Diversity may be the hardest thing for a society to live with,
and perhaps the most dangerous thing for a society to be without.”
—WILLIAM SLOANE COFFIN JR.
Natalie D. Brecher,
com) is president of
Brecher & Associates
in Redondo Beach,