Have you ever looked at your colleague and thought to yourself: “Oh my word, it’s like we’re from completely different worlds…”?
Whether it be the way you were raised, the dorpie you’re from, or that you’re from the 80s and they’re from what feels like the 1920s. Other differences that you might experience at work relate to physical ability, gender, ethnicity, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, educational background and so on.
More often than not, birds of a feather flock together. This can mean that cliques are formed in the office, each social group choosing to interact with those that share the same traits, with the potential of creating somewhat of a division amongst co-workers. In time, this separation could affect the camaraderie amongst colleagues and team work in general.
The real danger of not interacting with those in your in-group could lead to misunderstandings, accidental discrimination, and miscommunication caused by ignorance. And the quality of your work and the business might suffer.
Before we get into the nitty gritty details of how to handle these differences in a professional capacity, here are the reasons why you should be celebrating diversity in the workplace. You know, it really is a wonderful opportunity for you to expand your horizons.
Variety of Viewpoints
If you’ve ever heard the expression two heads are better than one then you know that the best solution to a problem is found when people collaborate. In this instance, people from diverse backgrounds can share unique insight that might lead to great solutions and ideas.
Broader Service Range
A diverse workforce allows you to reach a diverse customer and client base. By having an ‘insider’s view’ into as many markets as possible, your service range has lots of potential to grow.
More Effective Execution
If you understand how to keep your colleagues motivated by playing to their strengths and always being considerate and mindful of your assumptions, you can inspire them to perform at their peak – without feelings of exclusion and dissatisfaction. It’s been proved over and over again, a happy employee is a productive employee.
Here’s what you can do to create an inclusive environment and foster good teamwork in a diverse workplace:
Avoid Making Assumptions
Throw all your stereotypes, preconceived notions and generalisations out the window. Each person is a unique individual with their own opinions, habits, and sense of normal, independent from any group that you think they belong to.
Mind Your Language
Be aware of what you’re saying at all times. Your incorporation of slang and idiomatic expressions could exclude someone. If you are in a situation where you feel undermined, address the culprit in a calm manner – they may not even know that they’ve offended you. Be firm when you explain what was offensive and that they should mind their language in future too.
You Have at Least One Thing in Common
Every single employee contributes to the success of the company. Each of your co-workers have an important job and if one person slacks, it can negatively affect all of you. This same is true for excellent behaviour… a workplace atmosphere tends to have a ripple effect.
Even when you aren’t seeing eye to eye with another on a personal level (go see HR immediately if this is you), that should be put aside to ensure the success of your immediate projects.
Make an Effort
Team work cannot be emphasised enough. We dare you to step out of your comfort zone and mingle with a group other than your own.
Regular team building activities does wonders to build solid relationships. Making memories and having fun together can break barriers and create pleasant memories. We’re not saying take on a boot camp, but make drinks after work a regular activity. Urge your boss to allow the team to celebrate a great performance or new launch. Find a few silly but easy games that everyone will be able to participate in. (And don’t forget that you will of course have to respect everyone’s dietary requirements.)
Show Some Respect
Every single person on this planet has their own beliefs, and they believe in them as strongly as you do yours. If you consider how you feel when someone undermines your opinion, or disregards your integrity for whatever reason, then you should not want to make anyone feel the same way.
“You have to give respect to get it” is for primary school children. You’re big. That’s the thing about being an adult: If you’re the giver, you’ll be the getter too.
Are You the Office Bully?
While it is believed that we’re our own worst critic, it’ not always the case. Because we’re uniquely aware of our intentions, it becomes easy to justify any controversial behaviour, thereby rendering the critic inside our head powerless.
Making excuses for ourselves when we hurt another’s feelings isn’t difficult at all. Cady from Mean Girls didn’t think she was a bully either, and that’s because she gradually morphed into it.
You’d have to do some pretty brutal introspection to admit to being a bully, and you’d have to answer these questions honestly:
• Have you dismissed a co-worker for being insignificant?
• Do you swear at co-workers?
• Have you done these in front of others?
• Have you realised colleagues don’t approach you for advice?
• Can you describe the HR office decor in detail, since you’re always in there for a ‘chat’ about your management techniques?
• Has anyone confronted you, accused you of starting rumours and being unnecessarily unpleasant?
• Have you ever been accused of being a bully?
If you need a little help with the introspection part, perhaps you identify with how the office bully tends to justify their meanness:
You Are the Brains in Every Brainstorm Meeting
Everyone can’t wait for you to pitch your idea so you come prepared with quite a few. And of course, it’s always better than everyone else’s. So much so that the meeting would be a lot more productive if you spoke the whole time – which you try to tell them chance you get.
You Think You’re the Smartest Person in the Workplace
And you have no qualms with pointing it out to whoever will listen. It’s okay to do this because you always do everything right, so you know what you’re talking about. And when something goes wrong, it’s only because an idiot interfered that caused it. If they did their job properly, you would’ve been able to do yours too.
You Make Sure You Get Credit for Your Work
And sometimes, if possible, even for work you haven’t done. Well, it is group work and even though you didn’t do a lot of the work, your contribution is what held everything together so you’re just being forthcoming with the all facts. Like, if you didn’t offer your USB, there never would’ve been a presentation!
You Love Making People Laugh
And teasing others just happens to be your forte. Sometimes the one that’s teased doesn’t think you’re funny but they’re just too sensitive. People with no sense of humour are so unnecessary.
You’re Part of the Popular Group at Work
And you try not to associate yourself with people outside it. Anyone that’s a little strange has no business being seen around you – just in case people may think you’re as simple and mediocre as them. They don’t say birds of a feather flock together for nothing!
Your Life is More Interesting than Everyone Else’s
And you love to share your amazing experiences, and bask in the glorious ooohs and aaahs that follow. You can’t help that your life is more fascinating than theirs, right? Oh, your Christmas tree fell over? Well, that’s nothing! My tree fell through the window, hit the dog, killed 3 mosquitos and broke the parrot’s cage. We were chasing birds and cleaning feathers whole holiday. Like, just this morning I found a red feather in bag. The dog’s okay but the vet says… and you can go on and on because it really is just unbelievable and super entertaining. Three cheers for team bonding!
You Have Your Colleagues All Figured Out
And you’re not going to allow them to do better than you at anything. And because you’re better at everything, you’re automatically better for the company. If the company is to survive and progress, you need to do what’s best for the company, its projects and its clients. Even if that means ensuring that you take it upon yourself to get unworthy co-workers removed from projects and positions you’ll be better for. And it’s not your fault they fall for temptations or stumble over obstacles.
It’s not like you’re starting the rumours or purposefully manipulating people’s emotions. Even if you were, they’re grown and should be able handle it, right? And you aren’t that cold hearted, it’s just that these are the big leagues and you must be able to swim with the sharks, right?
Wrong! If you’re nodding your head screaming Exactly! Oh my word, Right? and That’s what I said!, then you might very well be the office bully.
Be careful of what you consider to be office banter, a personality clash, harmless teasing, strict management techniques, playful eye-rolling or blunt feedback. As soon as someone’s feelings are hurt, even if you think they’re over reacting, unnecessary or being too sensitive, you have crossed a line. While school bullies resort to violence and threats of physical harm, work bullying is more often psychological manipulation.
Courtesy of Careers24