Intercultural effectiveness is the result of reflecting on your attitude towards those who are different. Learning to work effectively with people who behave differently than we expect. This sounds easy but is hard to do in a work environment where there is pressure to perform. Our willingness to reflect gets compromised easily.
Do you recognize below statements?
- “I am very open to others, I promote diversity and I value
differences. The ‘diversity’ problem therefore is an issue for
others: they will need to start doing it.”
- “I am very open to others, I listen to their comments and like to
hear them. But when I know the right solution, I will bring it in!”
- “I value the attitude and proposals of our team in India. But they
have to follow the processes we have set for them at HQ,
otherwise we end up in chaos.”
The common element in these statements is: “I am reasonable and open. But they need to fit into my system.”
This is unconscious bias: without noticing what we are doing, we hold the conviction that we are superior and know what is right. We are open as long as someone else fits our expectations.
The amount of women in US orchestras went up from 5% to 50% after auditions were done behind curtains. The auditors were all convinced they only judged the music, not the musician. Apparently they did not. We often believe we are open to people who think and act differently than we do. But in reality, we make a distinction between in-groups (similar to us) and out-groups (those who are different).
Diversity is so much more than just a statement in the brochures or on the company website. It’s an attitude. Corporate policies – designed with the best of intentions – are meaningless if behavior at the work floor is different. Are you really open to hiring the candidate who is so different from you? Are you ready to be challenged by a young and inexperienced colleague, who takes a fresh look at things?
The introduction of inclusiveness into a well-formed company culture takes effort. It relies on open communication about uncomfortable topics. It relies on the willingness of all to reflect. It relies on an attitude of ‘not knowing’ what is best. All three are vulnerable positions to take and bring a certain risk of not fitting into the system yourself.
‘Clarity in conversations’ therefore is essential to promote a climate of openness. A climate where we can discuss the undiscussable. A climate where those who are different are no longer labeled as ‘different’.
Interested in a talk or workshop on ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’? I am ready for it!