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Preaching to the Choir on Cultivating Diversity in the Workplace - page 4 / 5





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to get people to move out of their natural comfort zones and develop common ground with those different from them breaks down the barriers created by stereotypes, as "those people" become real human beings, not labels.

Intentionally assigning mixed groups to work on projects can build bridges and remove barriers. Cross training and recreation/social activities are also vehicles for getting people to develop relationships across lines of difference.


Provide training that builds competence in stereotype busting.

While you may have addressed stereotypes and prejudice in diversity training, undoubtedly more work is needed. Not only do employees and managers need to increase their awareness of bias and assumptions, they need help in dealing with situations that occur in the workplace. Training needs to develop competence in detecting the signs of stereotyping encountered at work and in addressing assumptions and biases in productive ways. Role-plays around situations where stereotyping plays a part and problem solving to such situations are useful in developing competence in stereotype busting. As one seminar participant said, "We are all recovering racists and sexists," and it is the recovery model that is key. Addressing stereotypes and "isms" of all kinds is a process of continual dialogue, growth, and improvement, and one that never ends.

Finally, to really cultivate the diverse talents, skills, ideas and approaches that are lying dormant in many of our organizations, we each need to break out of our “comfort zone” of being with only “people that are like me” and take a look at what people have to offer. The creation of a respectful and more vibrant workplace begins with each of us.

Some ways to begin this expansion of our understanding might be to:

Challenge stereotypic comments and assumptions when we hear them.

Suggest changes in systems and processes to make them more equitable and accessible.

Spend time (e.g., meals, breaks) with people who are different from you in a variety of ways.

Let people know that ethnic, gender, racial, religious, etc., jokes are off limits.

Suggest methods to hold all staff accountable for fair treatment and respectful behavior.

Speak up and educate when you hear a derogatory comment, slur, or joke.

Suggest resolution strategies when staff has diversity related conflicts.

Challenge your own assumptions and stereotypic thoughts.

Give suggestions about ways to make the department more inclusive.

Check out the facts before you pass on information.

Cultivating Diversity in the Workplace                                                                    page 4

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