Violence at political rallies, videos of individuals shouting racist hatred, or images of hate scrolled on a building have brought the topic of diversity to the forefront of the nation’s conscious. Diversity has become a key societal discussion, and an increasingly important topic in the workplace.
According to statistics referenced by the Society of Human Resource Management, 10 days following the 2016 presidential election, there were 867 incidents of hate in this county, 18% of which happened in the workplace.
It is time to embrace the idea and importance of diversity in the workplace because the landscape of workplaces is changing. The shift is already evident when you consider that in the 1950s, women made up about 29% of the workforce, and now they make up more than 47%. According to the Center for American Progress (2012), it is estimated that by 2050 there will be no racial or ethnic majority in the United States.
However, it seems like I cannot turn on the TV or log onto social media without seeing people who are fighting this shift in society. Their attitudes are reflected in comments like “they should be like us” or “be American.” This is the practice of assimilation, and history has proven that it does not work as it negates the talents and experiences that make that person who they are.
Diversity is often defined as “the inclusion of different types of people in a group or organization.” This is a safe and sterile definition, but is missing something. I prefer the definition adopted by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs:
“Diversity is the mosaic of people who bring a variety of backgrounds, styles, perspectives, values and beliefs as assets to the group or organization with which they interact.”
I believe that this is a better definition because of two words: perspective and asset.
Race, ethnicity, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, and other attributes all influence an individual’s perspective. These perspectives shape how we look at things and play a significant role in creating our values and the way we address changes and problems we face.
If we believe the experiences that have shaped others are not an asset to our organization, then our organization will become stagnant and eventually falter. New and different ideas lead to growth and change, which keep organizations relevant.
We as team members have to place a value on a person’s perspectives and experiences. If we do not, we will only push people out the door.
WHAT TO READ NEXT: Five reasons your organization benefits from embracing diversity.
About the author
Robert Jones is an Employee Assistance Program Trainer with The Village Business Institute. Robert has a bachelor’s degree in History and a master’s degree in Education with an emphasis in counseling and leadership. He also has a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies, and is working on his Educational Doctorate in Leadership. Robert has nearly 20 years of experience in the hospitality field and has been doing freelance training for a decade.