Ways to Create a Culture of Respect & Communication Through Diversity of Thought

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What can companies do when opinions polarize coworkers?

Politics and elections.

Social justice and protests.

Landmark court cases and statues.

Mask regulations and enforcement.

In today’s world, there is lots of diversity… of thought.  Everyone has a slightly different political perspective.  And expressing opinions can quickly get emotional, especially during the pandemic.  How can coworkers with polarizing opinions continue to work as a team? What is a company’s role in managing conflict centered around diversity?

Business Culture and Diversity Training

We need a diverse workforce.  Businesses thrive when they are challenged by different ways of thinking.  “Diversity in teams or at senior management level brings a wealth of knowledge, experience and different perspectives. Those differences can be invaluable for innovation, problem solving, insight and creativity,” says Lynda Shaw of Forbes.

To reap the benefits of a diverse workforce, companies must create a respectful culture which comes from the top-down. It takes hard work to create a culture of acceptance, education, and communication but it will result in better team cohesion.

Here are some guiding principles:

  • Create opportunities to respectfully voice diverse thinking AND recognize this thinking as valuable.
  • Know that every interaction and every piece of communication matters. Use politically correct verbiage and be mindful of language used in emails, jokes shared by the water-cooler, and diversity portrayed in marketing pieces.
  • Get to know each employee as an individual, from the moment of onboarding. Make sure employees feel comfortable speaking up and establish norms to make sure everyone is heard.

It is never too late to implement diversity training.  Ruth Mayhew of Chron recommends the following: Companies should offer, at a minimum, training on civil rights laws and the effects of noncompliance. Therefore, provide training during new-employee orientation and to employees promoted to leadership roles.”  Companies should also have a step-by-step process in place to report any conflict.  A handbook is a good point of reference, Mayhew says.

When conflicts do occur, the best way to handle serious situations is to be pro-active.  “Solving disputes after they happen is a hell of a lot more work,” says Richard Boyatzis, Professor of Organizational Behavior.  Intervene early before things fester.  Managers should sit coworkers down and discuss how to respectfully agree to disagree.  Teams should agree on norms and read these aloud at each meeting, Boyatzis recommends.

Managers should publicly acknowledge that not everyone will agree when it comes to politics.

How to Hire with Diversity in Mind

As valuable as networking is in hiring, it can sometimes create a homogenous pool of candidates.

To increase diversity, employers need to make a purposeful effort to seek out candidates from non-traditional sources.  A great example of this is the PGA.  Golf is a historically white-dominated sport, not lending itself easily to attracting diverse talent.  The PGA decided to partner with Jopwell, which is a career advancement platform for Latinx, Black, and Native American students and professionals.  This partnership hopes to attract diverse candidates and foster a more diverse audience for the sport of golf.

Other purposeful efforts to seek candidates from non-traditional sources include posting open positions to targeted groups within LinkedIn or expanding to different job platforms.  Companies might also post positions to single-sex universities to broaden the candidate base.

When interviewing, companies can create a diverse interview panel.  Each interviewer should recognize his own cultural biases.  While focusing on the job requirements, consider the hard and soft skills of the candidates.

It is good for companies to be mindful and acknowledge the many issues that polarize team members.  Leaders should think beyond physical diversity and consider how diversity of thought/ political opinion factors into the workplace.  Create a culture of respectful communication.

Artemis Consultants cares about helping businesses hire candidates who will help companies thrive.  Please contact us for more information on how to think through diversity in your workforce.

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