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Diversity Awareness

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Diversity Awareness at ABC Corporation
Situational background
ABC Corporation is a fictional advertising agency. Following many years of highly successful advertising campaigns, market growth and staffing expansion, ABC has come under attack by various ethnic groups and the business community for a lack of sensitivity in some broadcast and print advertising.
The leadership team is concerned about the consequences of this backlash to our clients’ satisfaction and retention and to our revenue stream. It was evident to the leaders attending last month’s leadership meeting that the source of this problem ran deeply through the organization. The leadership team is highly diverse in ethic and national origins, language skills, background and experience. The employees reflect a similar high level of diversity. What currents are directing our projects into insensitive waters?
The leadership team appointed three of its members, Robert, Pat and Paul to investigate the source of the troubled waters; to bring some clarity to the analysis, “why are we not fully leveraging the diversity of our workforce?” The investigative team is to report its findings in one month, at the following leadership team meeting.
The investigative team interviewed employees and administered surveys to assess possible causes of the problem. They met to analyze and interpret the data and to prepare a presentation to the leadership team.
Findings
The investigative team discovered that two advertisements produced the most complaints. The Chihuahua dog in the Taco Bell commercial upset members of the Hispanic community. The African-American community was dismayed with the choice of an ape to depict the African continent in the International Directory. There appears to be two causes of these oversights. Employees don’t always reveal their concerns when they sense discomfort; they react passively and don’t fully reveal their feelings. Secondly, not all members of either ethnic group were upset by the advertisements.
The results of the survey revealed the workforce is made up many people with a wide spectrum of diverse backgrounds, ethnicity, religious beliefs, sexual preference, and limitations. The results also indicate the organization is between the early and middle stages of diversity development. An effective program must have leadership commitment, employee alignment and must incorporate a systems approach. At ABC Corporation, it is not enough to be diverse, we must act with integrity and deliberateness to manifest our diversity in how we relate, communicate and create. Systems loop
The investigate team considered a whole-systems approach to the problem. The extent to which the organization encourages and enables dialog on diversity issues impacts our expressed value and respect for our client communities. That will in-turn, affect the community’s appreciation for our advertising. A major input to this system is already achieved—we are a diverse group of employees and leaders.
The presentation
The purpose of presenting our findings to the entire leadership team is to solicit the leaders’ commitment for a sponsorship of a diversity awareness initiative, for the program is doomed to failure without strong leadership support. Our investigative team’s desired outcome is for member(s) of the leadership team to volunteer (perhaps a member of the investigative team will volunteer) to champion the diversity initiative. We also intend to influence the leadership team and the volunteer diversity champion through exercises of self examination and reflection to begin respecting and valuing diversity. We recommend the formation of cross-functional and cross-level teams to implement a diversity initiative. We also recommend and support employing a diversity consultant. The diversity consultant’s expertise will be used to advise the champion, the leadership team, and to train the internal diversity trainers/change agents.
Bias
In a team building seminar early this year leaders of ABC Corporation shared a three-day experiential team building session. The facilitator introduced the Johari Window framework to the leaders. The Johari Window suggests that we experience four “windows” of awareness:
• Agenda is the portion of total inter-personal space devoted to mutual understanding and shared information. This is "known by self" and "known by others." • Blind Spot is the portion of total inter-personal space which holds information "known by others" but "unknown by self."
• Facade is the portion of total inter-personal space inhibiting inter-personal effectiveness "known by self" but "unknown by others."
• Unknown is the portion of total inter-personal space devoted to material not know by either party "unknown by self" and "unknown by others." The Johari Window assumes that one of life’s journey is to expand the Arena while simultaneously reducing the Unknown. Travelling this journey is to disclose the Facade, revealing our hidden selves, while accepting feedback to permit others to reveal our Blind Spots. The Johari Window suggests that as we reduce the Facade through disclosure and the Blind Spot through feedback, the unknown will become known and reduced as well. The Johari Window may be useful for our leadership team to examine our biases as well.
Active bias may be the easiest for people to resolve—all the players are aware of its presence. The operative question for our team is, “how do we reveal and reduce our less apparent biases, both passive and deceptive. Our diversity initiative may include these ideas (Graham, 1997).
How to recognize your own passive bias
• What you notice first about people around you are the characteristics that make them different.
• You avoid discussing race, ethnicity, politics, age, religion, gender, and sexuality when you are at work.
• When others make bigoted remarks or jokes, you either laugh or say nothing because you don’t want to seem sensitive or self-righteous.
• When you see media that is targeted at an ethnic, gender, or religious group that you do not represent, you usually ignore it.
• When you look for a mentor or a protégé, you pick someone who reminds you of yourself.
• You avoid talking about cultural differences because you’re afraid of saying the wrong things.
• You are affiliated with organizations that practice subtle discrimination but you say nothing because you didn’t create the rules.
• Before you hire someone, you have a vague picture in your mind of what the ideal candidate would look like.
• There are people in your organization whom you like and respect, but whom you would feel uncomfortable introducing to your family. How to recognize your own deceptive bias
• You are obsessed with using politically correct terms when speaking with others who are different, but you use completely different terms when those same people are not around.
• You don’t want a coworker to attend your private party because you don’t want their kind in your home. But instead of admitting that you’d feel uncomfortable, you tell them they might not want to come because they might not feel comfortable.
• When you’re around those who are different from you, your go out of your way to use their culture-specific slang or drop references in order to make them think you embrace their background.
• Your child has embarrassed you by using a bigoted word in front of you and the insulted party. You later tell your child that his primary mistake was letting others hear him use the word.
• You say you’re frustrated by seeing segregated lunch tables in the cafeteria, but you are secretly happy that “everyone knows their place” and that no one is trying to integrate your table. Because, after all, you wouldn’t try to integrate theirs.
• Even though you truly believe that the group you represent is superior to another, you will sometimes resort to group self-deprecation in order to convince others that you are open-minded. Bias checklist Before we can begin to value diversity we must first understand the biases and perceptions we have about the differences of others. The bias checklist is a tool we can use to assist with our understanding of how our individual perceptions influence our behavior and relationships we have with those who are different from ourselves. It is important for us to understand that none of the words have a universal meaning and that all of us bring our culture’s values to the definition for each word. The following questions can be used to better understand ourselves so that we can begin to value diversity (Griggs, Lewis and Louw, Lente-Louise,1995):
• How do I interact with people (formally or informally)? Does my behavior or style change when I interact with people who are different from me?
• What are my biases about language, openness, trust, and honesty?
• How do my biases affect my interactions with others? Bias Checklist Activity
Circle five adjectives/terms describing people you like, and underline five adjectives/terms describing people you do not like to be around. You may add adjectives of your own. Adventurous Neat Affectionate Needs much Praise Ambitious Obedient Anxious for Approval Optimistic Appreciative Orderly Argumentative Rebellious Big-Headed Resentful Candid Responsible Competitive Sarcastic Complaining Self-centered Critical of Others Self-respecting Demanding Self-satisfied Discourteous Sentimental Distant Shows Love Dogmatic Shrewd, Devious Dominating Shy Easily Angered Sociable Easily Discouraged Stern Easily Influenced Submissive Efficient Successful Encouraging Sympathetic Enthusiastic Tactful False Talkative Forgiving Teasing Fun-loving Thorough Gives Praise Readily Thoughtful Good Listener Touchy, Cannot be Kidded Helpful Trusting Indifferent to Others Uncommunicative Impulsive Understanding Intolerant Dependent on Others Jealous Warm Kind Well Mannered Loud Willing Worker

Bibliography

Gardenswartz, Lee and Rowe, Anita (1993). Managing Diversity A Complete Desk Reference and Planning Guide. San Diego: IRWIN/Pfeiffer & Company

Graham, Lawrence. (1997). Proversity. New York: John Wiley & Sons Publishing Co. Incorporated

Griggs, Lewis and Louw, Lente-Louise (1995). Valuing Diversity New Tools For A New Reality. USA: McGraw-Hill

Hayles, Robert, Ph.D. and Russell, Armida. (1997). The Diversity Directive Why Some Initiatives Fail & What To Do About It. USA: McGraw-Hill.

Hoecklin, Lisa.(1996). Managing Cultural Differences Strategies for Competitive Advantage. Great Britain: Addison-Westley Publishing Co. Inc.

Loden, Marilyn (1996). Implementing Diversity. USA: IRWIN Professional Publishing

O’Mara, Julie. (1994). 101 Actions You Can Take To Leverage Diversity. Handbook Adapted for Pacific Bell Internal Use.…...

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