Modern leadership strategies have been pushing the importance of increasing inclusivity and diversity for years. However, the scramble to diversify your team may have inadvertently caused friction amongst employees who view the changes as disruptive. In an ideal scenario, an organization creates diversity without discrimination. However, gaps may remain as some people may still not be as receptive to embracing change.
Cross-cultural issues can impact communication and behavior. Some employees may resent losing a position to an external hire that they suspect was brought into the team for diversification reasons. Other team members may support inclusivity and diversity programs but don’t necessarily want to change how they usually do things. What ends up happening is a diverse work environment that still feels divided. When this happens, leadership must step in to close the gaps to create a welcoming environment that recognizes and respects different cultural identities. Here’s how:
When a team is dominated by a specific race or demographic, new hires that don’t fit into their category will feel like the minority. Unless immediately embraced by the existing team, they can quickly feel alienated. Unconscious biases can come to light. And the reality is that leaders have them too. Therefore, leadership must self-assess before becoming the role model for inclusivity and diversity. After all, leadership must also follow clear codes of conduct that do not tolerate any forms of discrimination.
To close gaps effectively, all employees should be educated on the importance and value of diversity and be made aware of the existence of unconscious biases. Enforcing programs and policies against discrimination are not enough; they only tell employees which behaviors can get them into trouble but don’t clarify why.
Many people don’t realize that their preconceptions of specific demographics may affect their behavior. Therefore, an HR-led seminar on how to manage biases is an excellent place to start. During these training sessions, employees should be encouraged to ask “uncomfortable” questions. Addressing curiosities with the facts most respectfully and professionally may be vital to clearing assumptions and misconceptions that many people have carried for years.
Develop programs that allow everyone to showcase their cultures; this includes acknowledging different holidays – even if it’s as simple as a morning greeting or a company-wide email. Gestures like these generate interest and openings for cross-cultural conversations.
Establish opportunities for tenured employees to work with new hires by mixing up teams. Consider pairing up new team members with individuals that you have identified to have natural leadership qualities and the ability to influence others. The goal is to be proactive in creating experiences that encourage participation.
Leadership must recognize that fostering and increasing awareness for inclusivity and diversity is a continuous process. It doesn’t start and end with introductory seminars. Employees can’t be expected to let go of their discriminations, however subtle, on their own.
Have you had cross-cultural issues in your workplace and struggled to close the gaps? Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to continue the conversation.