Take a look around at your office or workplace. What do you see? Do you see the same people that you’ve been sitting with for the past five years? Has your environment changed at all, have the people around you changed? Is there a diverse group around you? These are all important questions, because they have implications for the culture and climate of your work group. By now I’m sure you’re all well aware that diversity is important in the workplace, but is your workplace truly brought into the notion? How does your workplace define diversity? Does your workplace show that it truly values diversity, or is it just keeping up appearances with empty talk and posters?
Consciously we get it, diversity is good. It brings a variety of opinions, experiences and cultures to the table and it helps us to view strategies and decisions from multiple angles. But, we know from research that it’s not always this easy for people to get behind diversity initiatives. We have filters, biases both conscious and subconscious, we’ve been culturally conditioned and we tend to move toward what feels comfortable to us. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, in a lot of ways these traits have helped us survive for thousands of years, but we’re in a new age. A new era, where we need to be more aware of how and with whom we interact with.
As a leader, it’s vital that you create an environment where people feel safe to bring their authentic self to work. People that feel comfortable bringing their authentic self to work are more productive, more engaged and make for a more vibrant workforce. Take a hard look at the way your organization supports diversity, be introspective as well. Is your network diverse, do you have a diverse group that you interact with? Are you comfortable in diverse settings? Or are you stuck in the middle between your authentic self, and the self you need to be at work?
When you start to analyze how your organization supports diversity think about the disconnect between formal and informal culture around diversity. The organization may make formal announcements and formal statements on diversity, but the informal is where it is experienced and where you as a leader need to focus. Get a sense of how people experience the culture of the organization from different viewpoints. As we all know, diversity is no longer just about color and gender. Diversity is simply stated as difference. And it is by appreciating, and welcoming individual difference that we can make the necessary changes in our workforce to build a supportive, and inclusive environment for us all.