Responding to Difference

Working with Diversity and Inclusion is simple, not easy. As always, it starts with us. Here are a couple of behaviours and reflections that may prove useful.

  • The behaviours are often simple; for example – use reversability.

If you say something about a woman and refer to her gender as part of what you say, would you do the same thing for a man? For example if when referring to a female political candidate you describe how she’s dressed, would you make the same comment about a male candidate? If you say something about someone of a different race or culture than your own, particularly if that person is from a minority background in your setting, and you refer to that person’s race or culture, would you do the same thing for someone from the majority race or culture?

Thanks to Catherine Fox for this reminder. See her book “Stop Fixing Women: Why building fairer workplaces is everybody’s business “ Newsouth Books, 2017. https://foxupdate.wordpress.com; linkedin.com/in/catherine-fox-6b772216

  • How do you challenge a comment that increases exclusion – such as a sexist, racist, or homophobic comment?

One strategy currently being promoted in some organisations is to ask the person to repeat the comment, by saying either “What do you mean?” or “Could you repeat that?” Imagine doing this for a moment. What’s your comfort level? It’s important to be aware of your intention when using such a strategy. Is your goal to make the other person wrong? If so, you may very well increase the polarity. Can you respond in a spirit of genuine inquiry and trying to bridge the divide? That will take vulnerability, deep listening, and the ability to work with your own emotions in the moment. This takes practice – and is why mindful awareness of feelings in the body is essential to support your ability to stay present.

  • Bringing your whole self to work.

We bring our whole selves to work every day. The question is, how much of ourselves are we willing to show, and what aspects of ourselves do we keep hidden? We make conscious choices about what to bring, what to hide, and how to protect ourselves, based on the culture around us. What aspects of ourselves that we keep hidden could increase our engagement and enjoyment of our work, and add value to the workplace around us? What would need to change in the culture for this to happen?

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