You’ll find that the way you deal with multiculturalism and diversity within your workplace as an individual may be different than your organisation handles it as a whole. You, however, will have the unique opportunity to work directly with each of your employees and your sensitivity to their individual needs is paramount. So what are some of the things you’ll need to do as an individual to show your support?
Start by understanding. It’s important to understand that “equal opportunity” does not mean that every single person is the same, wants to be treated the same, or should be treated the same. They should have the same opportunities, but there are fundamental differences between how people from different cultural groups live their lives and these need to be recognized as well. Think out of the box and be open to new experiences.
Be empathatic towards your new employees. You may feel uncomfortable working with a new person – whether he or she is of the opposite gender or comes from a different ethnic background than you’re used to dealing with. As awkward as you may feel, remember that he or she probably feels exactly the same way. You don’t know how to treat each other, so simply taking the time to help each other work through differences will make a huge difference.
Be as tolerant as possible. You may or may not agree with some of the things your employees do or believe in, but you do not have the right to judge them or hold them back. You don’t have to like their personal beliefs or systems, but you do need to learn how to work with them and not show your distaste. Your personal beliefs should not impact your professional performance.
As always, don’t forget to communicate. The more willing you are to communicate the better. Make sure your employees know they can come to you with their thoughts and concerns and make sure you professional express yours as well. You won’t be able to work with anyone you can’t learn to speak to. If you aren’t able to express that a person’s actions or words are inappropriate they’ll only continue until you begin to resent him or her or, in some cases, a more difficult situation develops.
These are some of the ways you can look at workplace diversity on an individual managerial level. Next time we’ll talk about some of the things organisations can do as a whole to show their support. Until then, have a great weekend!
Originally published: 20 February, 2009