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Discuss the issue with the other person and determine how you both perceive it. Ask, “Is the issue a conflict?” What feels like a tense conflict to one person may feel like an animated discussion to another person.
Acknowledge that diversity-related issues may be contributing to the conflict, and commit to understanding and learning about each other. What one person views as a stand-alone issue to be resolved might be viewed by the other person as evidence of a larger pattern of disrespect.
Some people believe that showing strong emotion signals a loss of control and therefore a lack of respect for others. Others believe strong emotions show that you care and that you value and respect others enough to be open with them.
Some people respect positions and status levels more than others. As a result, these people may not speak up around higher-ups out of respect to them. If the higher-ups don’t share this value, they may judge the employee negatively for not speaking up.
Some people value individual achievement and recognition while others value group achievement and recognition. Those who value group achievement may be unwilling to make decisions on their own because they view it as disrespectful to the rest of the group.
Some people believe being on time shows respect and being late shows disrespect. Others believe people are more important than time and don’t worry about being late to an appointment or meeting if they are spending time with someone else.
Some people prefer direct eye contact and straightforward conversations, and they would feel disrespected if the person they were speaking with did not make eye contact. Others prefer a more indirect approach—not coming directly to the point but making small talk first, and they would feel uncomfortable if the eye contact were too intense.
Practice everything that is expected of every employee, plus:
One person can make a difference! Every employee can and should exhibit all of these behaviors.
Take the time to resolve a conflict so that both sides feel as though their needs are met.
Adapt your communication or working style to show you respect the person your working with.
Actively seek to understand the viewpoint of someone you disagree with.
Have lunch with or socialize with someone outside your usual “group.”
Solicit different perspectives before making a decision that impacts your work unit.
Share your own background and experiences with others, especially with people who are “different” from you.
Take the time to get to know a new employee’s background. (work history, experience, education, interests, etc.)
Consider needs of different populations/profiles, e.g., a space for nursing mothers, ergonomic adjustments for older employees, etc.
Consider larger tables in break or lunch rooms so more people can mix together at one time.
Create common spaces where employees can interact easily and informally.
Share insights about the organization’s culture and norms, be a point of contact for questions, or solicit feedback on their experience as a new employee.
Allow employees to contribute outside their regular job responsibilities.
Switch positions among employees at various levels for half a day and see what new perspectives they bring to the position.
At Ernst & Young, they discovered micro-inequities in how their firm assigned jobs.v Women were assigned to nonprofit clients while men were assigned to Fortune 500 companies, which in turn affected promotions.
Assuming a female employee doesn’t want to work with a client requiring conference calls at odd hours because she is a new mother.
Habitual seating arrangements in a meeting that don’t allow others to sit close to the leader.
Always eating lunch with the same person or group of people.
Giving feedback to one employee more frequently than to others.
positive judgment in one dimension was usually accompanied by a negative
judgment in the other dimension.
people’s perspectives are influenced by their
warmth/competence judgments (which may or may not be
accurate) then those perspectives may have poor outcomes.
For example, the finance department in your organization may
be stereotyped as high competence and low warmth—they do
their job well, but they’re basically not on your side. If that is
the perspective in your organization, then they may have trouble
finding people to mentor them and help them grow in the
We all know that
stereotyping—grouping people by simplistic, often inaccurate generalizations—is
unproductive and can result in unfair treatment or discrimination. Recent
research has found that people stereotype others in more subtle ways.
A study, completed by
psychologists at Princeton University, found that stereotypes tend to be
characterized in terms of warmth (or lack thereof) and competence (or lack
Warmth was defined as whether a person had positive or negative intentions.
Competence was defined as how effective a person was at fulfilling those
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.
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.
What is the source of unfair treatment and differences among people in organizations? Traditional diversity awareness programs have focused on the treatment of women and minorities. However, differences arise from a host of other traits as well including age, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, physical abilities, educational background, whether someone has children, even being an engineer versus being a salesperson. These traits or “profiles” cause people to make inaccurate assumptions, create separation, and yes, treat people unfairly.
The goal of diversity awareness is to promote an inclusive work environment.