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Diversity in the Workplace? Where does it start?

A quick review from several case studies and articles on Diversity in the Workplace, an all too familiar subject that I have encountered in my own work throughout our community.

Diversity issues within the workplace can be a difficult discussion with employees if they are not aware of their own bias or prejudices.  Each employee comes from a different background, set of rules, values and styles that can cause individuals to struggle through the sensitivity issues they may already be accustomed too.

In a recent journal article, “Diversity in the Workplace” diversity is defined as “acknowledging, understanding, accepting, valuing, and celebrating differences among people with respect to age, class, ethnicity, gender, physical and mental ability, race, sexual orientation, spiritual practice, and public assistance status.” (Armache, Dr. Jalal., 2012)

In both a case study and articles I have studied on diversity it is clear that diversity is not just about how we may perceive others but also how we perceive ourselves.  The case study involves several workers each from different backgrounds that first work in life by independently and quietly judging others without first looking at themselves.  I often tell people to first look in the mirror and understand who you are before passing judgment on those you work with.

Diversity in the workplace as discussed earlier comes from a source of life perceptions and experiences that each of us have encountered.  While we all know that diversity is not about black, brown or white it is of the most common, outward issue individuals face today.  In a society of people who claim freedom in our America we are some of the most difficult individuals in our views of people we work with.

In my own opinion I believe our view in the mirror, if we were to look closely lacks the confidence, security, maturity and self esteem that drives us to look at others in an attempt to make ourselves feel better as individuals.  Discussions prior to this have focused on leadership and communication.  This particular topic around these case studies demonstrates an unwillingness to lead, take action or communicate with one another that allows for growth in our perceptions.  It demonstrates the truth about organizations everywhere and how the interactions of people who work together often plays out.

While I can appreciate the attempt to provide sensitivity training (which is suggested in the case) to others I believe these studies demonstrate that even the leaders have difficulty teaching and dealing with diversity issues head on.  Leaders of any organization would have served a better purpose in dealing with employees involved, giving them opportunity to build understanding, sensitivity and leadership within themselves.  From that discussion where expectations can be laid out to employees leaders would have opportunity to build opportunity for future more relevant training.

According to the same journal article on diversity in the workplace it states that “employees who will not feel that they are being treated fairly and respectfully will start looking for opportunities, causing high turnover from the company they left from.” Proven in this case example, high turnover was inevitable as employers did not confront the issue, support their teams or treat everyone in the company fairly.

In the end, we are a vibrant community that encourages real work in valuing all people.  As organizations, leaders and individuals begin exploring the truth about our struggles in the meaning of diversity we will have more opportunities to serve our communities.  All children and families deserve acceptance, in order to feel secure in the places they work and live.  We can only do this by working hand in hand to solve issues which in return builds a better Rockford.

For more information on these cases or studies I have included references below.

References:

Armache, Jalal  (2012) Diversity in the WorkPlace: Benefits and Challenges. Journal of International Diversity, volume 2012, issue 1, pages 59–75.

Sharp, B., Aguirre, G. & Kickham, K. (2011). Managing in the Public Sector: A Casebook in Ethics and Leadership. Boston, MA: Longman

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3 Comments

  1. Lisa Chatfield

    Nice article Mike. I particularly like your point about looking within and assessing ourselves honestly. Back in my collage days I conducted a study with a friend. We went out to Cherry Vale Mall dressed as “bag ladies”. It was interesting in that no one would even make eye contact with us. We could feel all the eyes upon us, but when we tried to make eye contact, people would look away. Even when we were looking at items in stores, not one soul asked if they could help us.
    Interestingly enough, we changed our clothes the same evening and emerged from the Cherry Vale women’s rest room as wealthy women wearing furs and diamonds, etc. We went into the same stores. The eye contact was amazing. Smiles even! Store employees asked immediately if they could help us, and started conversations. Every person we passed made eye contact. We went from feeling ashamed and not worth looking at to feeling like some kind of superior beings just because of how people reacted to us. This experiment really gave me some insight into what it’s like to be deemed unworthy by others just because you may look different from them. It also helped me to be more sensitive, and seek to understand others and celebrate our differences.
    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thank you. I appreciate your comments. This is a great story and testament to the changes that must take place in our workforce. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Dr. Lisa Qualls

    Outstanding article/blog Mike.

    You wrote, “In my own opinion I believe our view in the mirror, if we were to look closely lacks the confidence, security, maturity and self esteem that drives us to look at others in an attempt to make ourselves feel better as individuals.”

    If people who lacks these characteristics you mentioned would realize that this statement is the master key to prejudice and bias. If they would be willing to work on self to correct their own fails, it would make a world of difference in the workplace, community and society.

    I teach at Springfield College in downtown Milwaukee. This Fall term I will be teaching a course “Building Multicultural Organizations” and would love if you would be a guest speaker.

    Barbara Fetkenhauer recommended you and said you would be a great person to speak on this topic.

    Please contact me to let me know if you are interested. Lqualls@springfieldcollege.edu

    Also if anyone else reading this blog is interested in presenting, please contact.

    Respectfully,

    Dr. Lisa Qualls
    Lqualls@springfieldcollege.edu