Sep 082009
 

As a business owner, consultant, and entrepreneur I have been told by many small business owners that “diversity” is really only applicable to larger businesses. When asked what diversity means to them (the small business owner), many respond it is about differences in race or gender. It is not about making the workplace a better place in which to work, but more about following the law.

I believe that diversity is really about being open to the global community and being prepared to respond to inquiries and ideas from a diverse community. If one truly understands the diverse culture we all bring to the table, we will have more open communication, better understanding, cultural and economic agreement, and less conflict.

By bringing diversity to your workplace, you can help to build a stronger organization and provide broader profits and capabilities to your customer base. As technology makes our world “smaller” , bringing cultures together, forcing us to work if not live together, diversity is undeniable and must be managed.

Let’s start by defining “Diversity”.

Diversity is bringing together a diverse group of people to work and communicate effectively and efficiently. Diversity is not just about race and gender, but also about diverse thoughts on religion, areas of the country, age, disability, and any other issue where more than one individual working, living, and communicating with another individual brings different thoughts together. Diversity can even be how different people learn, how they communicate (language), and how they perceive a problem or issue. Diversity is defining the differences we all have.

Look at your family dynamics. The family unit is made up of several types of individuals – for example, maybe different genders, possibly different age groups, different backgrounds and belief systems, different values, different up-bringing and different thought processes. If there was not a desire to learn about one another or to be a part of one another’s life, the family unit would not be there. It is only with the development of understanding between the primary individuals that the family will develop.

The same is true in a business. Diversity begins at the top, with the primary contact person understanding and looking for individuals that work well together, communicate with one another, and fit the culture of the company. Will there always be agreement? No, and in fact you don’t want blanket agreement. If you always agree about everything, you become stagnant and boring and you won’t move forward.

Diversity is understanding the differences we all bring to the table and being able to respond to those differences in a positive manner. Grow your business and yourself through association with diverse individuals. You and your business will be glad you did.

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  14 Responses to “Understanding Diversity in the Workplace”

  1. I would have to agree that diversity is for every business – small or large. Diversity just makes smart business sense. Think about it. Demographics are rapidly changing and diversity is here to stay. Wouldn’t you want to be proactive rather than falling behind the curve in business?
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  2. I cannot tell you how diverse my family is! That is a good example when you’re talking about a workplace because it often can become like your family. You do have to be prepared to have little fights with people, just like you would with your family, but it is overall helpful to understand that diversity should be honored in the workplace.

  3. Diversity is extremely important for todays business…small, large, corporate…doesn’t matter. With the internet you have the ability to reach an almost unlimited amount of different market segments. Being diverse across your service offerings can be a huge benefit, and a catalyst for continued growth.

  4. I have to agree that the family unit can be a good example of diversity. This is especially true for a small business, as the employees often are close like a family. Everybody needs a good family…just as every business needs diversity. Even if the diversity is not in the conventional form of race or ethnicity, diversity in the form of different types of logic or age or perspectives is just as imperative. Every business needs diversity in order to foster creativity and growth! Without it you’re business will be left behind.

  5. “Diversity is understanding the differences we all bring to the table and being able to respond to those differences in a positive manner.”

    I think that’s a sentiment so many employees desire and many employers fail to see. Talk of diversity can get complicated by other policies and approaches, but ultimately every employee wants to feel comfortable and understood–or have the freedom to help others understand them.

  6. I work for a small company and I feel that diversity has played a big roll in the past five years, opening our eyes to new oportunites and broadening our horizons generally.

  7. Great post! You have really explained “diversity” very well. I’ve learned a lot from this.

  8. Yer this was a realy good read you need to use diversity in aspecs of business small or large
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  9. I agree that diversity is important. We live a world where everyone is different and the same.

  10. Excellent insights Lola. Diversity can be an excellent tool to help organizations succeed because it helps them use the many talents and abilities of their employees to help the organization succeed. I really like the idea of getting leadership involved, it helps create a company culture that values diversity and sets a positive example for all other employees.

  11. Great article. I love how you compare the workplace to a family because it really is a type of family. When you think about it, we all must get along with family even though we may have different opinions, personalities and such – we learn to adjust and get along in spite of our differences. Great point!
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  12. Being diverse opens a lo of opportunities and endless possibilities as people with different background and experience come together with one goal of making a difference to the organization. It is like having the synergy.
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  13. Diversity in the workplace is a touchy subject for some, me included. I agree it can’t start at the top and therefore it will mysteriously find it’s way down stream to the worker bees. That is truly a myth. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful job to have? Having worked for many years in the corporate world was anything but pretty. I really thought the bigger the company, surely there had to be somewhere to hide. But I am definitely a strike out for upper management. Being a black female, coming from a well to do family, and historically well known is not easy. Being the first black family to purchase a home in KKK territory was not a dance under the moonlight either. My name was like the plague. My male managers almost always sexually harassed me. But prior to the harassment they would jokingly ask if I was going to sue the company or not. I say if you have to ask you already know it is wrong. I thought I couldn’t wait to grow up and get out in the real world like the others. Boy, was I sadly mistaken. Management was constantly trying to find a way to “get rid” of me. While my cries for help fell on deaf ears, I became more and more interested in the laws and rights of employees, starting with and EEOC and Human Resources. I was not such a good catch for corporations; I knew my rights and made corporations abide by them if at all possible. I filed complaints against the companies and if there was a union, I went that route first. Why didn’t management see my skills for what they were instead of working so hard to terminate me? The laws are complicated and even with documentation it could be years just to file a complaint with the courts. Good loyal and well skilled employees get passed up for promotions and if treated unfairly would seek other employment opportunities. I say all of this to say we may have come a long way, but diversity in the workplace for small and large companies have a long way to go. Not because of race, handicap, or gender, because it is the right thing to do. Oh my goodness, did I say something wrong, and I guess I need to shut up now too?

  14. Diversity in the workplace is a touchy subject for some, me included. I agree it can’t start at the top and therefore it will mysteriously find it’s way down stream to the worker bees. That is truly a myth. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful job to have? Having worked for many years in the corporate world was anything but pretty. I really thought the bigger the company, surely there had to be somewhere to hide. But I am definitely a strike out for upper management. Being a black female, coming from a well to do family, and historically well known is not easy. Being the first black family to purchase a home in KKK territory was not a dance under the moonlight either. My name was like the plague. My male managers almost always sexually harassed me. But prior to the harassment they would jokingly ask if I was going to sue the company or not. I say if you have to ask you already know it is wrong. I thought I couldn’t wait to grow up and get out in the real world like the others. Boy, was I sadly mistaken. Management was constantly trying to find a way to “get rid” of me. While my cries for help fell on deaf ears, I became more and more interested in the laws and rights of employees, starting with and EEOC and Human Resources. I was not such a good catch for corporations; I knew my rights and made corporations abide by them if at all possible. I filed complaints against the companies and if there was a union, I went that route first. Why didn’t management see my skills for what they were instead of working so hard to terminate me? The laws are complicated and even with documentation it could be years just to file a complaint with the courts. Good loyal and well skilled employees get passed up for promotions and if treated unfairly would seek other employment opportunities. I say all of this to say we may have come a long way, but diversity in the workplace for small and large companies have a long way to go. Not because of race, handicap, or gender, because it is the right thing to do. Oh my goodness, did I say something wrong, and I guess I need to shut up now too?




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