Facing the ugly facts about diversity – 10 excuses for why we don’t leverage diversity in the work force

perspectives Dec 15, 2016

We have a nation here built on freedom – the freedom to deeply fear anyone who you find different and scary – the freedom to restrict their freedoms.

Back Burner, SBS

According to the recent Essential Media poll, 40% of Australians don’t support Muslim immigration. The major reasons given were a belief that Muslim migrants do not integrate into society nor share Australian values.

As the field of unconscious biases will attest to, our beliefs that others won’t integrate into our ways or share our values goes well beyond immigration. It goes to the core of how we do or don’t embrace the diversity in thinking preferences and values of other people in our working lives.

In our work with teams and diverse groups, the most profound insight people often have is how difficult it is to ask a judgement-free question of another person. Through this work, people begin to realise that they often use questions as a way to diminish another person’s beliefs, to uphold their own views. In essence, they stifle the diversity of thinking, so they can walk away with their beliefs and ideas unsullied.

People are masters at finding excuses on why they can’t accept others or why their organisations don’t leverage diversity effectively. The following are common excuses we hear:

  • ”They don’t understand us”
  • “If we listen to them, they still won’t listen to us and we will end up getting manipulated and sidelined”
  • “We don’t have time”
  • “Leveraging diversity is a nice to have but isn’t a current priority”
  • “You only need three people to run a large organisation”
  • “Why would I listen to someone who has demonstrated they are not worthy of my trust?”
  • “That’s the way they are, they will never change”
  • “ There’s a lot of talk about the value of diversity, but it hasn’t really made a difference”
  • “If they come into this organisation and team then they need to adapt to us, not the other way around!”
  • “At the end of the day, the bosses have already made their minds up. Regardless of how much we discuss and agree, it won’t make any difference.”

If you start to feel a little squeamish and can see yourself in one or more of these comments, fear not; you are not alone.

If embracing diversity of thinking is a struggle for you and your organisation, here are three suggested ways forward:

  1. Build Awareness – The field of unconscious biases is rich with examples and practical exercises that illustrate how we ALL as human beings carry tremendous amounts of bias. Only by becoming aware of it are we able to accept it and action it.
  2. Foster Acceptance – All constructive cultural adaptation synthesises the best characteristics of the different cultural groups. Embrace diversity and recognise that for anything to change, I must be also adapt and embrace other ways of thinking.
  3. Take Action – Bite off the smallest possible project where you can get a DIVERSE group of people together to explore ways forward. By a diverse group, we mean this in the broadest possible way, so it includes diversity of expertise, experience, education, culture, gender, thinking preferences and anything else that will add to the melting pot. Focus the work the group does on both the problem that needs to be solved as well as how they need to work together in order to get the best outcome.

Corporate life is never as easy as the 3 steps above, and within each of these steps lies a much greater level of complexity than a blog can share. Despite this, it is possible for organisations to leverage diversity in order to learn and adapt.

We have been collecting case studies of organisations facing into adaptive challenges and identified those that we believe are truly evolving. A critical practice of such organisations is how they foster and embrace diversity. To find out more download our whitepaper, or attend our upcoming workshop in Sydney. In 2017 we will be launching an accreditation programme – join our mailing list to keep up to date with launch dates.

Our Adaptive Cultures Community

Our Global Community is an enriching space for culture practitioners to share, learn from, explore and develop emerging practices in support of their clients developing needs. On our community platform we share methods and tools, ask questions, conduct developmental conversations and learn together.

Join Our Community

Read the Adaptive
Organisations Whitepaper

Download our Adaptive Organisations Whitepaper and learn how to evolve through change and complexity. To receive a copy, please fill in your details below and a copy will be emailed to you.