What is Diversity?

In Diversity & Inclusion, Emotional Intelligence by Jim DawsonLeave a Comment

Diversity in its simplest form is differences.  When we talk about diversity in the workplace, we are talking about the differences that individuals bring to the workplace that make them unique.

Here we will examine our individual differences, but more importantly we will look at how we see those differences.  Our attitude toward differences significantly impacts our behavior. There are three key diversity concepts:

  • Attitude
  • Behavior and
  • Experience

A company, government or another individual cannot dictate how you think.  How you think is up to you as an individual.  However, your thinking and attitudes manifest themselves in behavior. Our intention here is to provide meaningful experiences to demonstrate the value of diversity

Each of us has some degree of what is known as “baggage”.  Baggage can be defined as experiences, attitudes and beliefs that prevent true understanding and empathy.  Another way of saying it is our baggage filters how we see the world.  Filters develop invisible walls between others and us.  Since another person cannot see these walls, they do not know they are there until they run into them. One of the purposes of this course is awareness.  Through awareness we can change some of our perceptions that may then alter some of our attitudes and behaviors.  Change is not easy for any of us; however, it is a necessity if we are to remain competitive in today’s marketplace.

Levels of Diversity

Cultural Diversity

What is cultural diversity?  Cultural diversity is differences in orientation to the world based on the traditions, customs and mindsets of the cultural group(s) of which the person is a member.  It is a pattern of basic assumptions invented, discovered or developed by a group for survival.  These assumptions worked well enough to be considered valid and in turn were taught to new members as the “correct way”.  Culture operates unconsciously and is often taken for granted by members of a cultural group.

Organizational Diversity

Organizational culture is a behavior based on the differences in orientation to the world developed by the organization for successful operation.

Personal Diversity

We can look at personal diversity on the condition or fact of being different.  We will consider both primary and secondary diversity characteristic.  Primary characteristics are for the most part set, while secondary characteristic can vary depending on the choices we make in life.  An example of primary characteristic would be race.  A secondary characteristic would be marital status.  Since we all have bias, prejudice and stereotype of others, we will be examining how to be more exclusive of other people to create a strong and more organization.

Inclusion vs. Exclusion

Diversity is all about inclusion.  It means valuing people when they hit the door.  Involving them in work decisions and valuing their input.  There is no place for exclusion in the Colorado DHS workplace.  Exclusion creates a difficult work environment.  What happens when you are excluded?

Culture

Culture illustrates the accepted norms and values and traditional behavior of a group. One definition of culture by Deal and Kennedy is “the way a we do things around here”. It is a philosophy, the way we think and the way we work

Culture is a key component in business and has an impact on the strategic direction of business. Culture influences management, decisions and all business functions from accounting to production. Business culture is related to behavior, ethics, etiquette and more. A business culture will encompass as organization’s values, visions, working style, beliefs and habits

Ethnocentrism

Ethnocentrism is the tendency to judge other cultures by your own and to find the other cultures inferior by comparison.  In other words, we tend to like our own ways best.

Family – Celebrations, holidays, recipes

Community – Great place to grow and have a family

Region – “People from the south are very friendly.”

State – “Has the best hospitality.”

Country – “America is the best place to live.”

Service – “Colorado DHS is the finest branch

Why is it important?  We are all ethnocentric to some degree; however, through education and experiences, we can learn to appreciate other cultures and other ways of living and how community and work can be developed and enhanced.

Examining culture allows us the opportunity to address some fundamental questions about human nature.  Edward Fisher of Vanderbilt University says that there are three important aspects of culture:

  1. It is learned
  2. It is not homogenous
  3. The one great rule of culture is that it is always changing

Let us examine some of the Colorado DHS’s culture norms.  We can do this by asking the following questions:

  • Is there a dress code?
  • Where is smoking permitted?
  • Are work hours the same in all departments?
  • Are acronyms a part of the lexicon?

Organizational Diversity

Let’s take a moment to examine the Organizational Diversity

Colorado DHS’s Organizational Structure.  In a broad overview we have:

  • Directors
  • Managers
  • Supervisors
  • Specialists
  • Assistants

How an organization is structured tells a lot about its organization cultural, who are members tells about its diversity.  As we will discover, a lot has changed over time, however, there is still a lot more that needs to be done.  The interesting part is we all have a part to play in the diversity initiative to make those changes.

We will be looking at ourselves and the part we have in moving the organization to being more inclusive.

What we are looking for in any organization is how we get the most qualified individuals into the available / open positions.  What does it take to suspend judgement, to not let our bias, prejudice or stereotypes get in the way, so everyone is given an equal chance?

As Jim Rogers would say, the objective is “to get 100% out of 100% of the people 100% of the time.”  As leaders in your organization, your job is to maximize the potential in your organization.  At times, you may not have the authority, however you can always use your ability.

Organizational Culture Evolves

Culture has certain dynamics associated with it.  An enduring definition of culture comes from Edward Tylor – “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, customers and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.”  The definition can yield some insight into how culture affects our daily lives and how we may act in different cultural environments.

The following diagram illustrates how our world has invisible walls we build around ourselves and our organization.  With that we have our baggage which is made up of experiences, attitudes, and beliefs, which adds to our filtering process.  Joe Keohane, in his article “How Facts Backfire”, illustrates that recent research shows how we use information to lock down a position, rather than for discovery.  We then have others join us creating a group, which then establishes a façade that provides the image we want others to see.

Think about your organization.  Does it have a specific language which it uses to communicate effectively to get the job done?  Is special knowledge or skill required to get the job done?  How do you talk about other departments?  Do you expect a specific behavior from the members of the organization?  Would your organization pass the pronoun test? (quote on page 9)

Reflect for a moment on the specific culture that exists in the Colorado DHS and your organization.

Micro & Macro cultures

Each organization develops its own culture.  Departments within an organization also have a culture of their own.  First, let’s look at culture at a macro level.  The United States is an excellent example for this.  At a high level there are regions within the country that we can identify.  They are:

  • Northeast
  • Mid Atlantic
  • Southeast
  • Midwest
  • Southwest
  • Western
  • Northwest

Take a moment and think of a cultural characteristic for each of the regions listed.  Not a very difficult thing to do…is it?

Now let’s move to more of a micro level and look at individual organizations

Each department within an organization is there to support the overall function of the organization.  In other words, there is a reason for its existence.  To understand the culture of an organization it is necessary to look at what factors are involved in the operation that may affect the culture.  Let us examine some of these factors:

  • Policy and Procedures
  • Legal Requirements
  • Office Organizational Structure
  • Unofficial Organizational Structure
  • Administrative Interpretation
  • Leadership Styles
  • Organizational Objectives

Another aspect of organizational culture is that we are usually unaware of the work that is being done in other departments.  We know how hard we are working; however, we are suspicious of the efforts of the other departments.  Throughout my career I have always listened to the complaints of my staff about other departments, and then listened to the complaints from other departments about my department.  The method I found best to heighten awareness was an employee swap for 3 to 5 days.  These individuals would be trained in the particulars of the other person’s job. 

The interesting aspect of this came from the understanding and improved communications once people knew how the other department functioned.  Suggestions on how to improve working with each other went up and complaints went down, just from the knowledge of the other department’s culture.  The culture in both departments would change when blending what works best for both.

Walls or Bridges

There is no one in the world just like you.  From the time humans have been on this earth they have had a sense of groupness.  Part of groupness is establishing a culture that often results in placing walls around that culture to keep people not like the members of that culture out.  This exclusionary way of thinking has been slow to change.  With the increasing changes taking place in today’s world these walls are crumbling down.  Homogenous cultures are a thing of the past. Societies trying to maintain a specific way of life by putting up bigger walls and taking part in exclusionary activities are finding themselves more and more isolated in the world community. 

Each and every one of us needs to tear down our invisible walls and build bridges to a better understanding of others. 

The Wall

When we put Walls up between us and others the following can result:

  • You have assumptions and attitudes about other’s behavior.
  • You make judgments based on your attitudes and assumptions
  • You allow those judgments to drive your behaviors
  • You react without thought or communication
  • The relationship suffers

The Bridge

When you build bridges, you must:

  • Suspend judgment about other’s behavior
  • Understand that your attitudes and judgments are not universal
  • Share information about your thoughts and feelings and listen to others
  • Think and act Win/Win

Culture of P.O.W.E.R.

Why are you here?   Why work on improving your ability to lead and communicate?  To reach people, to be heard, to be able to understand others, to be more effective at work?  Yes, to all of these but at the heart of each is the need to be the most and the best we can be.  How to do that?  What makes one leader charismatic and another unproductive?  Personal power.  Simple you say?  Not really.  Turning on your personal power takes work and it’s a lifelong job.  What does it take to have the P.O.W.E.R.

Positive approach and environment – in thoughts, words, emotions, expression and posture.   Maintaining a positive approach is energizing and keeps you ready for new challenges.

Ownership – take full responsibility for the actions you take and be accountable.

Willpower – To develop this system of energy, to change, to persevere, to help others, to do what’s right, to learn and to acknowledge the greatness in others. 

Emotion Intelligence – tact, common courtesies, sincerity, tolerance, humor, hope self-awareness, empathy and patience.

Remember – your passion and purpose.  Know yourself, be honest with yourself and believe in who you

D&I Starts with Leadership

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When looking at changing the culture of your organization it starts with the leadership of that organization.  Leadership is not the direction of things; it’s the development of people.  It’s being the catalyst for releasing human potential, encouraging reaction and participation so group members grow in initiative, responsibility, productivity and sense of personal worth.  Leadership is guiding and protecting human and physical resources into dynamic organization units that attain their objectives to the satisfaction of those served and with a high degree of integrity and sense of achievement on the part of those rendering the service.  Leadership is taking people as they are, with what knowledge, training, experience and background they have accumulated, and increasing their knowledge, improving their skills and modifying their habits and attitudes to enhance their contribution to the team. 

The success of anyone in a leadership role depends on this improvement.  In terms of such improvement, leadership ability can be measured.  The culture of an organization is the medium that makes it possible for individuals to work together in groups as effectively as they would work alone.  That is why we have organizational structure.  There is no other purpose for it.  The ability to create a good organizational structure makes for a good leader. Robert Greenleaf, in his book Servant Leadership, challenges us to reexamine our mindset on leadership.  His view has leaders serving their organization, rather than having the organization serving the leader.  For a unit to function at peak efficiency the leader must provide the direction, training, resources and support to achieve the goal.  In other words, leaders set the cultural norms.

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