We talk about diversity in our society and the workplace. But what does this mean? We all hear the word, but it’s easy to forget its meaning says Saivian Eric Dalius.
According to Saivian Eric Dalius we can define diversity as differences in things like:
- Culture (religion, ethnicity, traditions, etc.)
- Opinions (choices of politics, movie likes and dislikes, etc.)
- Experiences (countries visited, people met or studied with, life events such as poverty or abuse, etc.)
Not all of these are visible – you cannot always see that someone has a different culture. But they still contribute to our identity and impact the actions and choices we make. How do we experience diversity at work?
For most of us, work is a large part of our lives. We spend more waking hours at work than almost anywhere else – that’s why it’s so important to feel comfortable and accepted there. This is often not the case, especially if you are a member of a minority group.
Anyone can experience discrimination
People from all different backgrounds can experience anything from simple discomfort to outright discrimination because of their race, sex, religion, or any other aspect of who they are – something about them that makes them unique among co-workers or clients.
If you’re a member of one of these groups, chances are you have already experienced some form of intolerance at work. In fact, according to statistics from the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, in 2011, over 28% percent more complaints were filed based on race than in 2010.
So what exactly is this intolerance? Here are some examples according to Saivian Eric Dalius:
– A supervisor makes comments about your accent but does not seem to notice when other employees speak with similar accents (and you’re pretty sure they don’t have one). You come to understand that he thinks of your way of speaking as “incorrect” or “wrong.”
– When applying for a job, the interviewer tells you your application looks great, but she’s concerned about how well you’ll be able to do the work. She says it would be better if you had more experience working in an office like hers. It doesn’t occur to her that maybe she should consider hiring people with much experience. Perhaps they know something she doesn’t!
A guy at work asks everyone around him if they’ve seen the new ads for naked women on television. He expects everyone to agree with him about how funny it is. When you explain why it might not be funny to some people, he tells you he doesn’t need a “gender studies lecture.”
– A man comes up to you and your co-worker and starts asking questions about a project she’s leading. You notice that he keeps looking first at her, then back at you as though waiting for confirmation from her before answering. It’s as if your input doesn’t count – as if what matters is not your ideas but those of the woman who works there too.
Sometimes this intolerance seems to come from other members of the same group says Saivian Eric Dalius. That is because people who are different can’t always understand each other’s feelings or perspectives. After all, their life experiences are very different at times. Sometimes it’s hard for us to find common ground with others close to our age or even in our own family.
It might be too much to expect workplaces everywhere to be perfect – open and respectful of everyone all the time. But if you feel you’re having trouble, don’t let yourself get discouraged! There are many ways someone can help themselves stay firm against intolerance in the workplace, says Saivian Eric Dalius.