By Tangalayer Oates ’04
Quite often, I hear deep concerns about effectively managing or creating diversity cohesion in the workplace. Whether you are a new professional entering into today’s job market or an individual seeking to broaden your knowledge on managing or building a diverse team, there are some common and straightforward skill-sets to assist on this journey.
Diversity cohesion is quite simple. It is the act of creating an environment in which respecting individuals promotes innovative thinking. Diversity goes beyond external classifications, such as age, gender, sexual orientation, race, religion or social and economic class. This cohesion is a company’s reflection of the community it serves. If you are reading this, diversity cohesion is you; it’s me; and it’s the communities we serve.
Here are three topics I discuss with clients to spark diverse thinking while setting diversity cohesion goals:
Self-awareness is vital to your overall success! Learning to value your reflection can ensure you project the image you desire others to perceive of you. Introspection is a dedicated process that evolves over time; nevertheless, be aware there is positivity with this process. As you better understand yourself, you will learn to understand others and value their roles in the workplace.
Asking questions reduces preconceived assumptions and stereotypes, and fosters a positive two-way communication platform between individuals and groups. Learning how to ask inclusive and informative questions is a great way to reduce barriers.
For example, instead of questioning “Why did you make that decision?,” you may ask, “Are you comfortable sharing your decision-making process?” Or, instead of saying “In my experience, this happened,” you can ask, “How would you handle this based on your experience?”
The goal is to motivate colleagues to speak collaboratively in the workplace and decrease negative feelings or behaviors among groups or peers.
Be groomed for resistance
Motivating workplace change with the intent to merge different cultures or organizational norms can be a recipe for disaster. Changing leadership and new or updated policies with inconsistent workplace practices may create pushback.
To combat resistance, become a transparent leader, supervisor or employee. Learn how to align the organizational mission and values with individual and team goals. Learn the history and tone of the organization or team. Be prepared to get uncomfortable, while keeping a balance on what issues are personal and what are professional. Be ready to make positive connections when and where you can.
Change is a process, and, if adapted strategically, it can improve diversity cohesion. As you get started, remember to set attainable goals and be patient throughout the process.
Tangalayer Oates ’04 is the chief executive officer and principal instructor at Transcending Borders Corporation, a human resources and organizational management consulting and training company based in Georgia. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Columbia College in 2004, and a Master of Business Administration from Trident University International in 2006.