Why is diversity so difficult for some?


Diversity appears in many forms, from ethnic to linguistic, economic, and even to organizational cultures. A huge thanks goes to globalization for strengthening linkages between people of different cultures.


Yet, how do we begin a conversation on improving diversity in the workplace? Or about the barriers to diversity that subtly hinder employee improvement and long-term organizational development?


The simple answer would be to avoid the passive approach to obvious diversity issues. That is, to work with a method that actively addresses these problems and positions stakeholders to alleviate the negative effects of diversity.



Diversity. Why it is Important.


Black businessman writing brand values

There’s this saying that a Black person has to work twice as hard to achieve the same level of success a white person gets from doing just what is necessary. That’s the reality of our culture. It’s one of the barriers to diversity we have to live with every day.


To create a more exemplary picture, imagine how it would feel to work in an environment where your growth potential is measured by your skin colour? Would you like colleagues who find your mistakes as an employee, a product of your cultural disposition?


Your answer is most likely a bad and a no. That is not a healthy environment to cultivate productive ideas towards hitting organizational objectives. You want to be appreciated for your inputs. Also, for the efforts, you direct into your role as an employee. Even better is an environment that appreciates team culture. You see, managing workplace diversity issues and challenges is always top-talk when it's time to discuss topics surrounding working conditions, and the work environment. But when we leave the rooms of those discussions and get into the real world, systemic racism and people's blindness to their biases remain the norm. Prevalent cultural and social stigma still exists because many people haven't diversified their networks nor taken account of their privileges.


This is the current world of work. A continuous challenge of creating better ideologies on the issues of equality, diversity, and inclusion.



What is the real problem? How can we make organizational diversity a norm?


You could mention a few ideas like lack of perpetual communication channels to express diversity issues, individual stereotypes, poor representation of the minority in critical leadership roles, and even bureaucracy, as barriers to diversity and you’d be right.


While bureaucracy has its proponents, it hampers efforts that promote diversity by creating a situation that rarely emphasizes additional competencies in the workplace environment.


Constructive improvements like developing training for managers, and mentorship programs, including changes to the organizational message to communicate an appreciation for diversity are few areas that have the potential to create exponential results.



What is the Impact of Ethnocentrism?


Ethnocentrism is a term we use to describe a social flaw – when a person feels that their opinion or way of life is the most correct. A good example of ethnocentrism is thinking every other culture that fails to follow your fantastical cultural orientation is flawed and met with solid disapproval. Simply put, “If it doesn’t look like mine, then it can’t be good.”


Such mental arrangement is usually birthed from rejecting cultural relativism which explains how a person learns to view the world from different perspectives instead of from a central position.


An ethnocentric approach is not only detrimental to personal growth but also directs a negative approach to solving organizational problems if brought into the workplace.



Is Globalization Helping?


You would expect that a positive effect of globalization would be eliminating the problematic effects of ethnocentrism, especially in workplace environments. What we have is a far cry from that expectation.


Introducing new cultures has helped strengthen the ideals of most ethnocentric individuals. This happens in the majority of situations where people fear losing themselves and their identity to the influx of diverse people. Instead of focusing on the advantage diverse perspectives and experiences bring, the result is often a pool of negative diversity issues. Where you would have a booming organization, intercultural communication challenges and diversity issues make that impossible.


That’s why we need to have these tough conversations around team culture, anti-black racism, diversity and inclusion, and other topics focused on making the workplace a zone for productive diversity.



Benefits of Cultural Relativism in Workplace Environments



Where ethnocentrism encourages people to be one-sided, cultural relativism teaches them to see things from all sides.


Now, imagine working in an environment where your results are passed under the same filter as every other person irrespective of colour, or any form of diversity. It pushes you to give your best because the standards are not skewed against you, or in favour of the guy in the next cubicle.


Cultivating this kind of organizational environment gives everyone a sense of belonging, a feeling of possessing some participatory rights, and the podium to present solutions to key organizational problems from new perspectives (born from a diverse culture). The results compound.


The Numbers Don’t Lie


According to USA census data in 2020, Blacks account for about 13.4% of the population, but only a meagre 2% are found in executive working-class positions. Latinx make up 3% of the executive workforce with a population percentage of 18.5%. Whites take up 85% of these executive sits.


Talk about the absence of diversity.


Ethnocentrism (with its deep roots in our society) empowers strong identification with one’s culture or modus operandi for tackling challenges while getting rid of everything that doesn’t seem like it. This is a negatively consequential approach to organization building.


What must be encouraged is this: an environment that allows for the growth of different ideas, and perspectives for problem-solving. Every thought process that empowers organizational growth should be welcomed. Whatever does not help achieve that objective should be filtered away irrespective of the colour, gender, or moral disposition of the contributing person. That’s how organizations make quantum leaps.


Find out how Tough Convos can help your organization embrace diversity and inclusion using a suitable and bespoke approach that matches your business needs. Simply book a call with us or sign up to attend our next monthly tough convo.


Let’s work together to build a diversified workforce.