How well is your company doing at managing the differences of age, race, ethnicity, and other identity factors? It seems self-explanatory, but so many companies aren’t yet creating a welcoming and productive work environment for all—and they’re missing out because of it. On this Feature Friday episode of the ROI Online Podcast, Steve talks with Laura Kriska about how to use differences to your advantage and thrive in a diverse workplace. Laura is an author and expert consultant on cross-cultural relations. She teaches leaders in different organizations how to prevent Us vs. Them culture clashes by promoting inclusion in their businesses to increase employee retention and productivity and to prevent misunderstandings that lead to lost time and increased legal risk.There has never been a more relevant time for leaders to cultivate connections among people of diverse backgrounds. By building trust with others—no matter how different they are—you’re helping your business grow and thrive by creating cohesive, inclusive, and productive teams. Among other things, Laura and Steve discussed:The Business of WE, a new approach to diversity The unspoken rules every cultural group hasCosmetic versus substantive diversityThe things we can do to avoid walking on eggshells around our coworkersThe benefits of having a global experienceLaura’s success storiesYou can learn more about Laura here:https://www.laurakriska.com/Follow Laura on LinkedInFollow Laura on FacebookFollow Laura on InstagramFollow Laura on TwitterRead the books mentioned in this podcast:The Golden Toilet by Steve BrownThe Business of WE by Laura KriskaThe Accidental Office Lady by Laura KriskaThinking of starting your own podcast? Buzzsprout’s secure and reliable posting allows you to publish podcasts online. Buzzsprout also includes full iTunes support, HTML5 players, show statistics, and WordPress plugins. Get started using this link to receive a $20 Amazon gift card and to help support our show!Support the show (https://cash.app/$stevemfbrown)
So where? Where does one not walk on eggshells yet? Yet have a sincere, um intent. Yeah, How do we establish that where both sides are us and them where it's more of us? More we But it's obvious that our intent is is sincere. Mhm. So how do we move forward without walking on eggshells? I think that's a really good question. I think part of it is acknowledging that you're on the home team and being aware that you have certain advantages because you're familiar with how things are and other people aren't, and also preparing yourself for the situations that you will make a mistake. You will unintentionally perhaps offend someone and be ready to apologize, to be ready to acknowledge and say, Oh, I didn't mean that or, UM, I that wasn't my intention. You know, if you're going to engage in the work of building trust with other people who have grown up differently than you have, however, that is, you have to be prepared for some difficulty. It's not going to be smooth, and I think this is why, especially if we're talking about race in America. This is why there has been negligible progress, even though over 50 years have passed since the civil rights legislation. Because when I grew up anyway, the message was, Be color blind, don't acknowledge race, don't talk about it. And I grew up thinking that was the right approach. And that's not the right approach, because for most people of color, their, uh, their race and their ethnicity is an important fact about their identity. So if it's convenient for people who are in the majority to say, Oh, I don't see color, I don't see race, Um, because it protects us. It's a kind of shield that we've hidden behind because it's helped us avoid what could be hard conversations. And that's one thing I've learned as I've grown older, that I grew up with a false notion that proximity alone was enough that being color, blind or culture silent was the right approach. And it's not it, really. I believe that it requires that that really include, let me say this again. I believe that to create a week culture, people in the majority have to see others who don't fit into that majority and take action to widen the circle of belonging, and that starts with their names
I think the key word there is building trust with another person, and you talk about little. You have some examples of just little initiatives or gestures that people have done that have been so impact. Mhm. Yeah, it starts with a name. Uh huh. You know, when I grew up in Columbus, Ohio, there were a handful of kids who were named Laura. Laura was a pretty common name. Steve is another pretty common name. And so if I meet somebody named Steve or Laura, you know, it's It's an easy name for me to say It's an easy name to remember. I hear it once I've got it. But in the 21st century, people are representing a much more diversity. So you have names reflecting different cultures, different ethnicities. And so again, if you if you're in the cultural majority, you might come across names that you're thinking, I don't know how to say that. What What kind of name is that? You know, you might you know, I've even heard people make fun of other people's names. That is not a good idea. Uh, people in the majority, I refer to anybody who identifies with the cultural majority in a particular organization. I call that being on the home team. Mhm. If you're on the home team, you have an advantage. So if you're somebody who is a native English speaker, for example, and someone a non Native English speakers in your organization or or in your community, I feel like it's a great UM, effort by the home team to make the effort to say the other person's name correctly. And so if you don't get it on the first try, you know you say to them, Um, hey, I want to make sure I'm saying your name correctly. Could you repeat that, or How do you spell that? Or, you know, it takes a little bit of effort. It's the kind of thing that maybe 25 years ago didn't come up because in your organization or in your community, or the kids in your in school with your own kids had similar names. So diversity is increasing in every organization in America, and we've got to keep up
So let's talk about at least the cultures that we're trying to establish in our businesses. Um, diversity is like a real important word to know and implement in your organizations. Or at least that's that's the cultural, uh, they caught the cultural expectation of a lot of businesses is that show us show us that you are diverse and that you are operating in a way that's respectful of that. But it can come back to bite you in some ways, you know? What do you mean by come back to buy you? Well, I think that if you're doing it in a way that maybe you're stepping on the toes are these unknown rules You could have the right intent or maybe be sloppy at it and actually be upsetting, upsetting the things that yeah, in the opposite way of what you're wanting to establish. Mhm. I would say that there is this false notion that proximity to people who are different is enough that if you hire people, for example, who don't look like you or sound like you or pray like you that you've done enough, it's a good thing to have a diverse work place it's it's good for business. It's the right thing to do. Um, but when people are just looking for somebody who is different but not really wanting to include them in the decision making, um, in in the heart of the organization, uh, it can cause more problems. It's kind of cosmetic diversity. I heard this phrase recently, uh, cosmetic diversity versus substantive diversity. So I really like that idea of substantive diversity. And in the book, I talk about this idea of looking inside yourself to understand and reflect on what type of life choices you've made because so many of us are in favor of diversity. We want to be inclusive. Yet if we look at our own lives, we live pretty segregated lives. I see this. So I'm a white middle aged woman and many of the relationships where I live, you know how I spend my time is with other middle aged white people, and there's nothing necessarily inherently wrong with spending time with people like you. People do that all over. But if you're really trying to embrace diversity, you need to question that and say, Well, why is that? You know why? Why do I, uh, have lunch every day only with people who look like me, sound like me and pray like me. And most often it's because we don't put ourselves in situations where we can be with people who are different or if there are people nearby. We hesitate for one reason or another, and this is a problem. So right now, for example, uh, after last spring and black lives matter protests which fundamentally has changed the messaging in corporate America, right? We see so much more messaging, um, in support of black lives matter, which is very important. It's great, but hashtags are not even close to being enough. We need organizations, and especially the leaders in those organizations, to take action to make policies to do the hiring and mentoring and integration of people who are outside the cultural majority, which in most companies is white Americans. So people in charge of those initiatives in corporate America, our majority middle aged white people just like me. And so if those people myself included, if they haven't done the work to think about their own choices and themselves, I don't believe they can make effective policies and help their organization's culture. So one of the concepts in my book is I use the phrase an internal infrastructure And so this came from my observation of the civil rights, um, legislation, uh, comparing it to the Americans with Disabilities Act. That was, I think, in 1991. And I'm sure as you remember, when this act was made into law companies, organizations spent huge amounts of money building an infrastructure to include people with various types of disabilities. So close captioning, um, physical ramps, parking, you know, places to park. You know, we see evidence of this any time you go out in public. And so when the civil rights legislation became law in America, there were similar rules. You have to do this kind of, um, you know, there are things you had to comply with, but there's no visible evidence of this. You can't look at another person and understand if they have done the internal work to be able to connect to people who are different, to integrate, to have relationships, to build trust with people who are different. So the business of we talks about the need for individuals, especially leaders, especially middle aged white leaders to look at themselves and, um, and ask yourself, You know, have I done the work? There's, um The second step in the book is a self assessment. There are 10 questions, 10 questions that can change your viewpoint. It can change your culture. But these 10 questions ask, uh, any person to measure themselves in relation to another cultural group. You get to choose whatever cultural group that is, and when your score is very low on a specific culture, it means you need to do some work to increase your score. Because when you increase your understanding and your integration and your relationship and trust with people in a particular other group, you are much less likely to cause unintentional damage. You're going to learn those little invisible rules that you brought up. And not only are you going to avoid causing trouble and damage and heartache and hurt feelings, you can then leverage your knowledge toward positive outcomes, such as a really strong, trusting relationship with somebody who has a different life experience than you
So I've had a little exposure to Japan, And so when I was learning that, you know, to think about you as a woman, a young woman, the only one working there, I think our audience needs to understand what a big deal that is, how how do different that culture is, how they look at things, all the little unspoken rules that you had to learn. I think you just hit on a key phrase. The little unspoken rules. Every cultural group has little unspoken rules, and when you are unfamiliar with those little unspoken rules, it's easy to make mistakes. It's easy to offend people. This is where a lot of the unintentional harm occurs because most people are interested in getting along and you know not having conflict, but because we haven't been exposed to the other culture or we haven't done the work to learn about the other culture that is relevant to our lives. We cause damage without intending to and puts people in an awkward position because they don't know if they should correct you to teach you at that time. And so there's this dilemma that when you and most Americans might know that when you put your chopsticks in the rice, when you just that's like offensive and it's like you put the folks that do you understand that rule in a dilemma? Do I correct them and teach them, or do we just ignore it and go on? Uh, in my book, I talk about three categories of harm or damage, and there's inconsequential, consequential and game changing. So putting your chopsticks weirdly in the rice probably fits into the inconsequential category. So you know, some people might mind it, but most people are going to shrug it off. But a consequential example might be, um, saying a Japanese person's name, but not using Sun after their name, which is customary and respectful. So if somebody's name is Mr Tanaka in Japan, you would say to Makkah some but to say Tanaka, Hey, Tanaka, can you help me? Hey, to knock up Where's the stapler? Using just the name Tanaka is extremely rude in Japanese culture, and so that would fit into the consequential category where someone might speak up or uh, without knowing it. You might be causing quite a bit of attention and damage, and then game changing would be behavior again. It could be unintentional where you are ruining a relationship. So an example would be in Japan not being aware of and acknowledging the hierarchy hierarchy matters almost all the time in a Japanese business environment and in a way that it just doesn't in the United States. So, for example, in Japan, people tend to sit in certain seats or they speak in certain ways. And so if you kind of roll into this meeting unaware, um, speaking over people looking at them as though, um, none of them have a certain authority because of their years of service, you could be ruining relationships. And in fact, I did that, Steve, that happened to me when I was an office lady working for Honda.