Bridging differences in the workplace

“For many of us, the workplace has become the most diverse setting in our lives,” says Howard Ross, who blogs on the SHRM website about his new book, Our Search for Belonging: How the Need for Connection Is Tearing Our Culture Apart (Berrett-Koehler, 2018). He adds that because of more diversity in workplaces, there are also more opportunities to bridge differences.

Ross cites studies that show that workplace tension causes stress and results in a reluctance to communicate, even when non-communication affects work. To counteract the stress and improve communication, he urges organizations to find common ground by promoting “a sense of equity and belonging” among employees.

Here are some of his strategies to communicate the values of diversity and belonging in your practice.

Work to remove bias in recruitment, hiring, and performance reviews. Build an understanding that diversity is more than numbers; it involves “deep levels of engagement.”

Create opportunities for dialogue; improve listening skills.  Active listening to other points of view in small groups helps participants resist trying to win arguments. Mastering this skill leads to better workplace relations.

Invite employees to share their stories in meetings, in employee resource groups, in diversity education or other situations. Hearing others’ stories deepens personal connections and expands worldviews. 

Acknowledge individuals’ contributions. Public recognition of their contributions gives people a sense of being part of a team. When everyone feels part of a team, polarities caused by individual viewpoints can be less divisive.

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