The call for diversity in workplaces; a cause of tension or a platform for togetherness?
The call for diversity in workplaces; a cause of tension or a platform for togetherness? Is this a time for celebration or conflict? It certainly is not the time for fear and anxiety. A few years ago, many companies, large and small, embraced “diversity” as if it were a non-problem, a positive word to add to their mission statement. Now that is not the way things are going.
Consider the headlines of recent months. How many incidents have you read about in the workplace, at school, or out on the road? How many cases have you heard about of bias, intolerance, or violence? Riots in stores, sexual assaults, hate crimes, or other crimes have broken out in all different areas of our society, from Oklahoma to Minnesota to Tennessee. Each incident serves to turn the media and the public’s eye on the issue of diversity in business and government.
Some pundits blame the Trump Administration, stating they have created an atmosphere of intolerance and bias. Maybe so, but I see no evidence that this is the case. I also believe we live in a melting pot; people of different cultures and ethnic backgrounds come together and make this nation stronger. This melting pot need not be a cause of tension and division, it can promote cooperation and understanding.
If we cannot or will not understand each other, how will we work together effectively? Diversity in a business environment can be a very positive thing, promoting efficiency, creativity, and teamwork. This is a much-needed ingredient in today’s business environment.
So, what about those who are against diversity, claiming that it is a cause of tension in the work place. They claim that diversity causes division and that in order to thrive, businesses must be closed off from the rest of the world. Is this true? What does a business have to lose if diversity is embraced and encouraged in the workplace?
The first premise that must be examined is that being a successful company means that all employees know and understand the diversity of the business. Only then can they perform to their maximum potential. Second, success in business does not come from a single idea or one product. Innovation and creativity are what brings success to any company, and this should never be a problem. Additionally, by allowing cultures to mix, ideas will find their way back to the drawing board.
In fact, studies show that diversity leads to innovation. Some might say that it is the other way around; that innovation comes from a society that does not accept differences. Still, it must be noted that all cultures share certain values, and if businesses could unite against any perceived threat, problems would be solved. A common ground will bring people together. If everyone knows and understands that everyone is unique, then diversity will be welcomed as a partner to help improve the business.
Third, if businesses can unite in their desire to be diversified, diversity will thrive in the workplace. This will inevitably create a feeling of belonging, and this will eventually lead to an overall sense of satisfaction. As stated above, all cultures benefit when diversity is embraced into the workplace. This will increase productivity, improve customer service, and lead to higher profits. So, what is the difference between a Platform for Togetherness or a Cause of Tension? The answer is that it simply makes a difference!
The difference is so subtle that it may be hard to see. But it’s there. In fact, studies show that a small difference, one that is barely noticeable in a large workplace, makes a world of difference. For example, when one group is asked; are you satisfied with your workplace environment, or do you want more personal space?
The answer was clear; “aversively satisfied with our work”. This was done by a multicultural group that had come together to solve a particular problem that was affecting them. When asked what were the causes of their dissatisfaction, they pointed to a specific instance of cultural diversity that caused them real stress. The Platform for Togetherness or the cause of tension was an unnecessary cause of stress; fortunately, this particular group realized their mistake and they came back together, later putting this incident behind them.
So, does this mean that all diversity is not desirable? Of course not. Some groups might feel like they don’t belong, or like they have been marginalized in some way. A common solution is to work with people who feel like a member of a group rather than one of the members. A good workplace is one that is made up of individuals who understand each other, who get along together, and who can live with one another in harmony.