The best way to start is by answering the question, “what does diversity mean?” Simply defined, diversity means difference or variety. Put two people in a room together and you have diversity, for as you know, no two people are exactly alike. Yet at the same time, even though the two people have their differences, they also have similarities. So as you begin to put a definition to the issue of diversity, you can say that it is about the differences and similarities among people.
But to define diversity in the workplace, my definition: diversity is about how you manage peopling who in your business.
And people bring a variety if differences and similarities that make them who they are. For example, some similar expectations those people bring to their work environment.
They want to be treated with respect.
They want to feel included or as if they’re part of a team.
They want the kind of opportunity and support that will enable them to be successful in their jobs.
Putting these pieces together, I further define diversity as follows: Managing people- all kinds of them- and creating a work environment where they are treated with respect and inclusion and given support and opportunity to be successful as individuals, as well as the opportunity to help the business be successful.
Focusing on performance and behaviors
To coach and manage diversity effectively, need to concentrate on two areas: First, focus on performance; second, don’t tolerate behaviors that hinder performance.
First: Emphasizing performance
Focusing on performance deals with what you are paying people to do their job. It means putting forth efforts to make people feel respected and part of the team and give them the guidance and support they need to develop and maximize their talents and skill. To help people be their best, you need to be aware of the issues involved in managing performance. Job performance can be broken down into three main areas: attendance, work, and tasks, and job-related behavior.
Attendance has two aspects:
* Availability: It’s pretty simple. Productivity comes from people performing their job, and they can’t perform when they’re absent.
* Punctuality: When people repeatedly don’t show up on time- at the beginning of the work shift or after breaks- the problem of tardiness exists.
As a manager, you have to apply common sense, not rules for the sake of rules, when determining how critical attendance especially punctuality- is as a job-performance issue. Base your judgment on the needs of the job and the customers it serve.
2. The work and tasks people do
Work-related issues are critical in every job performance situation. The issues involve output, quality, completeness of the work, and timeliness of getting the work done.
* Output: The amounts or volume of work that people need to produce. Output may include sales quotas, production targets, or numbers of service calls taken.
* Quality: How well the job is done? Is the work produced with few errors, little waste, and in good working order? These aspects of quality are critical in the work and tasks people do.
* Completeness: How thoroughly the work is done? Is everything complete and in order? Half-finished products are items that no one wants to receive.
* Timeliness: The work is getting done when it need to get done. Meeting deadlines is another important performance issue.
This critical issue of performance relates to people conduct and relations with others- behavior needed to do a job well. Of course, these behaviors vary from job to job, upholding operational or safety standards, courtesy and respect, and managing other.
When managing diversity and coaching, you want to put an emphasis on going attention to the issues of performance that yield high productivity and build positive work environments. Stay away from attempting to manage issues that aren’t performance-related. For example, when managers mistakenly deal with the following three issues, they may find that their efforts create problems and fail to enhance productivity.
* Attitude: attitude isn’t an issue of performance that you can manage. Attitude is how some one thinks or feels about something. It’s not the same as behavior. Behavior is tied up in someone’s actions; you can observe and manage behavior.
* Personal background: The personal background-his or her race, ethnicity, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, and so on – doesn’t determine his or her ability to perform. Skills and behaviors do that. When you base your employment-related judgments and decisions on whom a person is rather than on the person’s performance, you jump into the discrimination zone.
* Style: Style is the methods or ways that individuals use when getting their jobs done, and nearly everyone has a different work style.
Second: Don’t tolerate any behavior that hinder performance
The second factor in managing diversity relates to behaviors – not tolerating any behaviors that hinder performance: behaviors that disruptive or insensitive and can offend, intimidate, or anger others. Such behaviors have a counterproductive effect– they hinder quality performance and damage morale.
Here are some examples of such behaviors to watch for and address immediately:
* Off-color humor: Jokes and other attempts at humor that are sexual in nature or make fun of a particular race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or disability.
* Ridicule or insult: Comments or attempts at humor that personally degrade or attack someone else. Even when done in a subtle fashion, such attempts at humor usually hurt and anger those on the receiving end.
* Profanity and vulgarity: Specific examples in this area-you probably heard many of them in grade school anyway. A word here or there is usually not a big deal, but many people take great offence at the continuous use of profane, vulgar, or lewd language.
* Stereotypical remark: Board generalizations of a subtle but degrading nature about groups of people. Comments that start out as, “Those kind of people are all like this,” or” I am not prejudiced, but…,” are usually stereotypical remarks that cross the line of respect.
* Subtle-to-overt sabotage: Withholding information, not giving help that people need to do their jobs, or causing damage to work items or property.
* Threats: Intimidation about someone’s job situation or threats aimed at someone’s physical safety.
* Slurs: Derogatory name-calling that’s most commonly aimed at race, ethnicity, gender, religion, and sexual orientation.
* Mimicking: Ridicule that usually involves repeatedly imitating another person’s accent, especially when English is a second language.
* Exclusion: Ostracizing someone from the work group to isolate the person-a destructive behavior that hinders performance.
This list can go on, but these behaviors have instant negative impact on individuals and the work environment. These kinds of behaviors are not what you are paying people to do. People have the right to feel safe at work.
Organizations function with a diverse workforce with variations in gender, culture, ethnicity, age, disability, sexual orientation, background and personality. Managers must be able to understand the needs of the individual in order to encourage the best performance from everyone.
Not surprising, then, we can find an abounding difference of opinions about what diversity means and approaches for dealing with it. Programs and training efforts offered by groups on diversity have had a mixture of results. Some efforts have created awareness and employee dialogue within a business context. Other efforts have reinforced and even taught new stereotypes, created more discomfort and tension, and made little connection to a business context. Whether you like the issue of diversity, understand what it means, or view it as important, when the dust and confusion settle, managers still need to lead and manage their employees and the diversity that comes with them.
1. Adrian Savage, Diversity in the Workplace: Take Aim at the Right Target
2. David Creelman, Interview: Barbara Annis on Same Words, Different Language
3. Judith Lindenberger & Marian Stoltz-Loike, Managing a Diverse Workplace
4. Individual Performance Management, http://www1.worldbank.org/publicsector/civilservice/individual.htm#1
5. David M. Williams, Diversity at work, 1996, New York, National Grocers Co. Ltd.