3 Steps for Mastering Diversity at Work

Simply put, diversity in the workplace might make you struggle with others.

Most of us like the idea of diversity in the workplace. Our research shows that you are likely to support the idea that having diverse thinking will “help the organization”. You may feel diversity helps drive better decisions and makes each day more interesting.

If you are like most people, you are lucky enough to work with some percentage of people that you like. At the same time, you are likely to work with some people you don’t like. This is the reality of working with others; some we like and some we don’t.

What makes us like some people and not others? One way we decide is by listening to, and then quickly judging people by how we interpret their ideas. For example, if you meet someone who votes for the same candidate you like, you believe you must be talking to a smart person, one you feel you will “like”. If you meet someone voting for the opposing candidate, you may dislike them on some level.

Simply put, people believe that others who think like they do, are smart. This means, a big reason why you like some of the people you work with, is that you like their ideas.

Let’s re-think diversity. Your day to day work-life might be easier if everyone at work thought like you did. It might also be painfully boring and limit your ability to grow yourself or contribute to the growth of others. A lack of diversity will also limit the competitiveness of your organization. On the other hand, a little healthy drama when discussing ideas will help you produce better results and make life more interesting.

Real diversity in the workplace means we rise above “tolerating” other people’s opinions. When we hear an idea we don’t like, we replace our judgment with curiosity. Instead of thinking, “that’s a bad idea” we ask, “would you tell me more about how you arrived at your opinion?”.

Here are 3 steps for inviting and leveraging diversity in thinking;

  • Invite someone who thinks differently than you to join a brainstorming discussion. When they offer a contrarian idea, thank them, “It is exactly this type of thinking that made me want to invite you to this discussion, thank you for saying that”
  • Re-state or paraphrase the ideas of others, before inserting your own (conflicting) opinion. In short, say, “what I hear you saying is that we should reduce inventory levels in order to increase cash flow” instead of saying, “I think we need to increase inventory levels”
  • Invite someone who thinks differently to challenge a specific idea. This sounds like, “I think it makes sense for us to have people work overtime this week to finish our product launch. What do you think I might be missing and why might this not be a good idea?”
  • Think of this as a real-world test of your values around diversity. If you like to tell people you believe in Diversity, show them that you live this value by inviting and appreciating the input of others. This will harness the power of diverse thinking for your organization.

    For more on this concept, you can read chapter two of our Amazon Top-10 Business Book, “Step Up-Lead in Six Moments that Matter”. If you want to learn more about living your values, watch our blog entitled “Values, Would you go to Jail For Yours?”

    2 replies
    1. Jerry Hoag
      Jerry Hoag says:

      Henry; I like your focus on diversity of thinking and value of contribution. Too often, diversity is taken to mean (and does in many environments) ethnic, racial or gender diversity. Talk with yo soon. Jerry

    2. Henry Evans
      Henry Evans says:

      Jerry, thank you for the kind words and yes, we thought the concept of “diversity” could use a refresh of sorts. We’re glad you found it valuable.


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