By Mike Brown
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.
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
Mike Brown, president and chief executive of the YMCA of Rock River Valley, Illinois. This article first appeared in the Rockford Register Star, www.rrstar.com.