“Workplace Diversity

“Constant change is the status quo.” – Shireen DuPreez

On the surface, that statement seems to contradict itself, but in reality, it’s true. Shifting populations and a hyper-connected global workforce means today’s workplace is no longer a sea of white, middle-aged men in dark suits. The modern workplace is a diverse ocean of individuals representing all dimensions, including race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, and other ideologies. Each individual must be recognized, accepted, encouraged and in some cases required to contribute because constant change is the status quo.
November 16 is International Day for Tolerance. But the world “tolerance” itself raises difficult feelings of “otherness”. The reality is we live in a diverse, yet intolerant world. But there is another way.
Conscious Leaders look beyond the horizon and know that merely tolerating another is not enough.
The textbook definition of tolerance says “to allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one does not necessarily like or agree with) without interference.”
Tolerance, then, is passive. It is an act of letting something you may not like just be without your active interference.
Ironically, the term ‘to suffer’ has similar connotations: to submit to or be forced to endure.
Passive suffering is not the hallmark of a Conscious Leader, and therefore tolerance of workplace diversity is not tolerated. Conscious Leaders actively look for ways to leverage the unique gifts and talents of every person in their span of care – employees, suppliers, partners, customers and the communities they serve.
This visionary approach to diversity aligns with the mantra, “Work where you’re celebrated, not where you’re tolerated!” And Conscious Leaders do just that – they seek to celebrate the uniqueness of each person and work toward those strengths.
A team of diverse people — when their functions align with their natural gifts and talents — is far more engaged, productive, happy and effective than a group that’s merely tolerated. Conscious Leaders know that as surely as a master chef knows that having the right ingredients does not guarantee a delicious meal unless you know how to put everything together in just the proper order. In nature we must consider biodiversity, the very cornerstone for our planet’s survival. It is no different in a workplace environment. Homogeneity leads to stasis. And as you know, stasis is fatal for progress.
The takeaway here is simple: workplace diversity is our reality; you cannot fight it, nor should you. Moreover, you should do more than implement a ‘workplace tolerance’ policy because passivity is not the action of a Conscious Leader.

Conscious Leaders surpass this state and actively build teams that seek out diversity, not because it’s “in vogue,” but instead because it’s astute business practice. You cannot change people. But you can bring out the best in what they have to offer. After all, you can produce more with the same resources when you acknowledge and embrace a person’s individuality. It’s the smart thing to do to.

Conscious action step: Evaluate the diversity of your team and the strengths it provides the organization. Do you have the resources to meet the organization’s challenges and the needs of your stakeholders ? If not, what needs to change to maximize the talent you have? Hint: It starts with people, passion and purpose. Like a balanced diet, a diverse workforce brings a multitude of opportunity for organizational health.

Leadership * Stewardship*