Article

Valuing Diversity At Work

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Discrimination and elitism used to be widely tolerated if not fully accepted, but not any more.  Today, diversity in the workplace is viewed as an opportunity, rather than an obligation. Workers, as well as management, must understand the cultural landscape of the workplace with a view toward contributing to it, rather than simply tolerating it.

Moving Beyond Tolerance

Employers have moved beyond simple tolerance of differences found among employees in the workplace. Although this switch has been difficult for some and hasn’t come for others, the social and economic payoffs for accepting diversity as a corporate value are huge. Valuing diversity begins when workers, as well as management, understand the cultural landscape of the workplace and seek to contribute to it, rather than simply tolerate it. In today’s highly competitive society, high morale and happy workers is crucial. When any employee or group of employees feels disrespected, the human cost is high, and lost productivity is too.

What Is Diversity

In the context of the workplace, diversity is the mixing of race, gender, age, and preferences of a religious and/or sexual nature. When a culture is dominated by one single profile of worker to the exclusion of others, and to the point where people who aren’t among the majority are made to feel uncomfortable, then diversity is not valued.  This is not to say that a workforce must be equally divided among those descriptions in order to consider itself diverse. But rather, that these are profiles are represented and accepted, to the point where the difference of color, age, race, gender and preferences no longer matter.

From Tolerance To Value

While tolerance is certainly better than ignorance, tolerance alone does not constitute the valuing of a diverse culture. Tolerance can simply mean a lack of discriminatory policies and behaviors, with equal access to benefits and promotions based on merit alone. But companies that value diversity go further – they tailor their use of language to meet all cultural needs, they observe preferences and holidays for all belief systems, and they make sure that minorities are represented in management and in all groupings and project teams. Not valuing diversity in this way will negatively affect the company and damage morale.

When companies believe that everyone can make a contribution, they automatically commit to creating an environment where everyone can be their best while positioning the company for financial success in a competitive 21st century.

Deciding To Value Diversity

A culture is defined by the sum of a company’s policies and practices, but it is also the collective attitudes and behaviors of the individuals who comprise it. To that end, the valuing of diversity is an individual choice with consequences with far reaching consequences. What’s your decision?

To not value diversity in a culture that does is to announce yourself as something less than a team player, which can cripple a career.  Everyone brings biases with them to work, but biases are merely a reflection of the past. The only thing that determines the future is choice, and every day is a chance to embrace a coworker of different color, gender, age or preference with a blank page and an open mind, one that looks toward character and teamwork as the criteria for acceptance over anything else. Companies can only do so much – the rest is up to the people who work there.

Dollars & Sense Of Diversity

Nearly one out of every three Americans today is a person of color. Over 13 percent of workers are of Hispanic heritage, and 12 percent are African-American. Companies that foster a culture in which diversity is valued at all levels are making a statement to both their employees and their customers, one that serves their image on both fronts. Not valuing diversity has hard economic costs:

  • A negative consumer image with loss of preference by customers.
  • High employee turnover costs.
  • Loss of revenue from decreased economic activity.
  • Loss of advertisers who won’t support a company that does not value diversity.
  • Lawsuits for discrimination and their associated litigation expense.

When companies believe that everyone can make a contribution, they automatically commit to creating an environment where everyone can be their best while positioning the company for financial success in a competitive 21st century.

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