Diversity Gives Me Gas

go enter Rant time. I’ve grown weary of reading articles about how to “solve” diversity problems in the workplace. Many well-meaning and qualified people treat diversity as a disease upon one can simply apply a magic formula to abracadabradize them into the ether.

Think about that for a moment. Is it possible to throw a bunch of diverse people together into a big box, shake it in just the right way and expect them to bond together?

Key diversity strategies. Workplace inclusiveness models. Diversity tool kits. It’s as if there are specific processes one might apply to solve their diversity problems. This works for changing tires. It does not work in diversity.

Don’t get me wrong. There is a plethora (yes, a “plethora”) of information out there about diversity… its causes, challenges and recommendations to be considered. But a method? A process? A procedure? I don’t think so.

Pretend that you have a box full of a gas I’ll call Diversium. Diversium is made up of molecules called race, gender, culture, religion, sexual orientation, age, disability, musical tastes, religion, political affiliation, social class, nationality, worldview, style of clothing, ancestry, humor, and employment. (And those are just the ones I can remember!) For the moment, these molecules are floating around, minding their own business. Likes connect to likes. Opposites repel.

Now, let’s compress the box. The molecules get closer. They bounce off of each other more frequently. There’s less room to move about, and friction increases. As with many gases, the compression causes heat. Get enough heat and pressure and you’ve got an explosion on your hands.

But when these molecules share something in common, even two small electrons, they bond. They become stable. Everything cools off. This bond creates what scientists call a “noble gas;” what we might call in the workplace a noble ambition.

Diversity conflicts cannot be solved with a policy. They won’t be resolved with a procedures manual. Diversity issues cannot be delegated to HR. A healthy, diverse workplace is a culture that must be fostered, not forced. It’s systemic, not a system.

Celebrate diversity, yes! But to solve the challenges that come with the differences, look for electrons. Look for the small but common bonds that can be made between people. follow url That’s where the solutions are found.

Yes, it’s true that diversity challenges are about how we treat each other. But first and foremost, it’s how we THINK about each other. Focus on differences and you’ll find only that which is diverse. Seek common bonds and you will find community.

Decompress. Relax. Breathe. Create an engaged culture that seeks commonality, rather than one of procedures and practices that attempt to manipulate the process.

Likes attract likes. Seek out common “likes” and you will create a noble bond of stability. Not one which gives you  gas.

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One Response to Diversity Gives Me Gas

  1. Al Borowski says:

    Well spoken, Jeff. I’ve been suffering these gas problems for a long time. I was brought up in a very diverse coal mining town and all I cared about was whether the person I interacted with was some one I trusted and would cover my back the way I would cover his or hers.

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