Mixing with people unlike yourself is the key to success in the workplace, broadcaster and author JUNE SARPONG explains
How often do you interact with people who have different values, a different religion or difference race? For most of us, the workplace is where this is most likely to happen. When we get diversity right at work – and can celebrate and appreciate everyone’s individuality – it will invariably help towards making us happier. So in a post-Brexit, deeply divided world, how can you remove the barriers to understanding and connecting with people outside your usual circle? June Sarpong, broadcaster and author of a new book Diversify: Six Degrees of integration, offers some suggestions.
Challenge your ‘ism’ to embrace diversity
Our unconscious biases, phobias and isms are a barrier to us seeing the potential of ourselves and of others. These isms fuel division and subtle discrimination in work and wider society. Our experiences (or lack of them) are reinforced by bias in the media and our educational systems create a narrative which limits our belief in ourselves and ‘others’ who are different due to ethnicity, class, gender, orientation, physical ability or faith. Women have in many ways been conditioned to mistrust other women, particularly in leadership roles, and sometimes internalised insecurities can be triggered by other women who are brave enough to break boundaries. A narrative where we doubt people based on gender, class or ethnicity creates barriers for female graduates or those from working class or ethnic minorities entering professions such as STEM, where class and cultural diversity would actually be beneficial. When we all challenge our Isms, everyone can achieve their best work and we will all be happier. You can diagnose your ISM with the ISM Calculator at Diversify.org
Check your circle
We tend to gravitate towards people that look like us, but this limits our outlook and experiences. Widening our circle at work enables us to source varying talents and skills, making our teams and organisations stronger and more adaptable. This also makes it easier for us to relate and successfully collaborate with customers, colleagues and clients who we may have previously found intimidating or difficult to work with. Put forward suggestions to address diversity within your company and the results could be that you implement change or support an existing diversity outreach program that helps your company better serve its employees and customers.
Use diversity to change your mind
We should be willing to test our capacity to embrace difference and change by putting ourselves in environments and situations that are unfamiliar to us. This may mean going to a presentation or gig where you are the minority, being around people you don’t immediately identify with or know little about. Be prepared to feel uncomfortable and risk rejection but also to benefit from new experiences and challenges, providing you can leave your assumptions and isms behind.
Celebrate difference to create diversity
Encourage the involvement, participation and progression of others. Look beyond hierarchy and distinction so that you are able to benefit from ideas from all levels of your office and organisation from the MD to the intern. Adapt so that you do not limit yourself by judging people as they may be viewed within the company. Rather look for what you might be missing in people and what untapped potential there might be at the reception desk or canteen.
June’s book Diversify: Six Degrees of integration is out now