How Important Should Diversity Inclusion Be To Managers?
Do managers need to worry about diversity? How important is it for a manager to have good diversity inclusion skills in your company? Without those skills, you set the stage for a very unhappy team.
What is your manager’s understanding of diversity?
- Some managers feel it’s too complex and is something they can look into when they have extra time. In other words, it looks like a major issue which needs time to get into.
- Most people think that diversity is about the color of the skin. However, this is just part of it.
Diversity is the competitive advantage for companies to succeed in business as markets become very competitive. In business we want to include people with different ways of looking at problems and situations in order to find good solutions. I am not expecting you to be my friend or invite me to your barbecue, I just want you to look at the skill set I have and make use of those skills…put them to work, come together and be the best problem solvers for the company.
Let us ask ourselves this question, if diversity is not important, why do companies spend so much money promoting it? However, is promotion enough, should companies do more in terms of diversity education? I wrote a blog about hiring managers with knowledge of what diversity meant to them some time back.
The role of a manager…
Let’s look at a situation where an employee goes to the manager because of a comment a work mate (we’ll call Sam) made earlier in a meeting. The comment made this employee very uncomfortable, because Sam used gender and race as an example. The complainant happened to be both the gender and the race that the comment was about, and was also the only one in the group that fit the descriptions.
Here is an example of lack of education and knowledge. Something happened to the individual which they felt to be not right. They went to the only source they had to get help…their manager. The manager listened carefully to the complaint, and in the end replied that Sam did not intentionally mean it in a bad way, and said not to worry so much about it. A few days later the person was approached by Sam to say the complainant was being too sensitive. Sam went on to say that he has neighbors who are black and they are friends.
What just happened???
What is going on inside this poor employee who went to the manager to seek help? The manager totally ignored this person and on top of that, he discussed the whole situation with Sam without the complainant being present. That is stab in the gut several times over.
When this manager came and talked about the issue in a coaching session with me, I had to remind myself that I am a professional and should act according to coaching ethics and competencies. I asked the manager, what he/she thought the complainant needed from him/her more than anything. I asked the manager to try and put him/her self in the same shoes and imagine how this person really felt and what kind of help was being asked for? The manager was unable to do so, because he have never been in the same situation. So I re-phrased the question to: “Can you go back to a time in your life when you needed help and there was only one place you knew you could get it”? Now imagine if this person you went to did not see the importance of your situation, ignored the whole thing and did nothing to help, how did you feel?”
There was a stretched silence, and when this manager finally spoke it was… “Oh my! I messed up!” I forced myself not to respond and spoil the moment of awareness, and I let the silence continue until the manager broke in by saying he really wanted to improve. That was the start of a coaching topic that has continued for some time now.
It takes time to change our habits and internal self-talk. Courage is what makes people admit they want to change!
If your goal is to become a better, more effective leader – Please contact me at 425-879-1677 or email me from my Contact Form.