Genetics science tells us that life itself thrives via diversity. Your company does too.
Within your company, very different people with amazingly different backgrounds can produce astounding results providing they work together. This is the opposite of companies where a lack of diversity can lead to monolithic thinking.
It is up to you, the leader within your organization, to make sure diversity works well. This provides you with the largest of talent pools to hire from and the most rapid integration of ideas.
In this article, I will look into the reason why some leaders are reluctant to workplace diversity and how you can embrace it for success.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Resistance to diversity
It is worth noting that the opposing elements of comfort and stress.
We humans like the familiar. Things we know and understand are comforting, easy to contend with and lack material stress. This explains why modern Silicon Valley has had a diversity problem. Not only have technical degree earners remained largely white and male, but the established executives are as well and find no stress in hiring people like themselves.
These managers and executives may lack any overt prejudice, but when hiring, they “go with what they know”.
Adding diversity to a workplace increases the workload and stress for some leaders. They have more to contend with, less understanding of the subtle cultural elements, and different team interpersonal frictions.
It is understandable, though not acceptable, that these managers take the easy way out and hire people for which they are familiar and for which they have a trust bin performance within a team.
But diversity is like manure; the added stress stinks but it helps you grow. Part of diversity expansion in any organization depends on managers understanding that long-term diversity is healthy for the organization and rewarding for managers and their teams.
Diversity requires work
In my book Tough Things First, I speak to that subject – doing the tough things first. They are those monumental and difficult tasks on which we humans tend to procrastinate, and by doing so, fail.
Diversity is a tough thing. It requires real effort. It requires executive and organization-wide commitment. It requires personal and corporate discipline to get it done well. A diverse organization left alone will not likely succeed.
In the list of tactical processes that follows, you will see that successful corporate diversity requires active participation, both in weeding out those elements that block functional diversity but also that accelerate its effective adoption.
How prejudice blocks functional diversity
While I was the CEO of Micrel, my staff had a meeting with Human Resources to discuss which universities we should recruit from. One of the proposed universities happened to be the one I graduated from. A vice president, who was unaware of this fact, said “no good students come from that school.”
He felt pretty awful when the VP of HR informed him that it was my alma mater. He had a tough time looking me in the eye.
I was not in the least offended by his comment. I put my arm around him and told him I appreciated his feelings. By choosing not to be offended, I was able to maintain a good relationship with him.