Do you know what restaurants do at their weekly leadership huddle? I didn’t know until I started attending some of my client’s weekly meetings. Each Tuesday I join them in sampling a new recipe or food. One Tuesday at 9:30 in the morning, I also found myself sampling a daiquiri. The next month, a vegetable paté (I didn’t like it and neither did many members of the team) and a pumpkin soup (amazing!).
And then there was the day that we sampled a new slider recipe. The manager, Bob, said loudly, “Of course Saheed won’t have this. He won’t sample meat. He’s too good for us.”
Everyone, including Saheed, laughed.
And then Bob continued. As the team discussed whether the sliders had enough seasoning and flavor, Bob said, “Well, it doesn’t have to be too spicy. The Indians won’t be eating it anyway, will they Saheed?”
Again the group laughed, a nervous laughter, and everyone looked around to see each others’ reactions.
After the meeting, I spoke to Bob. “You know, singling out Saheed based on his dietary choices creates tension among the team, and I wonder how Saheed feels?”
Bob said, “Oh, I am just teasing him.”
I continued, “I am concerned that your intentions are not creating the impact you would like. I found the comments offensive.”
“Well,” Bob retorted, “you need to get a sense of humor and lighten up.”
“Teasing” is often a form of microaggression. Instead of creating inclusion, it magnifies differences.
Now I fully understand why the staff complains to me of trust, openness, and acceptance in this organization. How would you or your organization handle these situations?
It seems simple enough. You ask a colleague if he wants to go to lunch. He says “yes” and then invites a few more people. You also tell a few others to meet in the lobby. Next thing you know, a group is going to lunch.
Innocent enough, right? And when you are with this group, it’s fun. There’s a lot of laughter. While you are out, you decide there’s a new bar that you might all like and someone in the group starts organizing. And that’s why you like work so much. You are with your friends.
The question is, who are you leaving behind?
Exclusion in workplace is real. It can be a form of bullying, and there’s no doubt that it creates divisions. When I talk to upset employees, I hear the sadness in their voices. I see the melancholy in their faces. The victims tell me that colleagues chide them about their food choices, about their body type, or about their clothing. If you are thinking this behavior stopped in middle school, you are wrong. It’s unfortunately alive and well in our workplaces.
When I talk to the employees who are treating colleagues unkindly, there’s denial. “Oh, we didn’t mean it that way.” “Oh, she’s so sensitive.” “Oh, he said he doesn’t play golf, so we didn’t invite him.” Not only is the affected employee hurt and upset, they are also not very productive.
When I talk to senior executives about bullying, I hear, “It might happen at the lower levels, but not amongst the senior staff.” “Well, you can’t expect everyone to get along.” But bullying is expensive and there is usually some form of underlying harassment involved. For a detailed list of how much bullying costs, go here:
It is true that you don’t “have” to invite everyone, every time, but ask yourself these questions:
- Am I talking disrespectfully about a person?
- If my behavior was recorded on video, would I be proud of my actions?
- Do I socialize with people who are different from me? People who are different ages or religions, people who have different gender preferences or different beliefs?
- How tolerant am I?
And if you are the target of workplace bullying, do the following:
- Tell your HR department.
- Request training for the entire organization.
- Request a corporate coach.
- Take care of yourself.
- Ask yourself, “Has this occurred in other places where I have worked or gone to school?” If this happens to you often, ask “What am I doing to contribute?”
- If the harassment feels threatening or violent, file a formal report and leave the company.
The best organizations cannot prevent bullying, but when bullying occurs, they take immediate action. They provide training and support. The best workplaces counsel the harassers and they aren’t afraid to terminate. They take workplace bullying seriously.
How inclusive is your workplace?
When I first saw this ad from H&M, the huge retailer, I thought, “What kind of diversity do they have on their marketing team?”
What my colleague Tina and I know from our training as coaches and Tina’s certification as a Diversity Professional is that diverse work groups would have noticed this and someone would have raised the red flag to stop the campaign.
Knowing that, I then wondered, “Did someone notice and not care enough to stop the campaign?” Did they notice and mention the problem, and their words fell on deaf ears? What kind of corporate culture would thwart “the someone” from speaking out? What kind of corporate culture would be dismissive if “the someone” spoke up and no one cared? And finally, did the organization know and choose to alienate a large group of customers (now former customers)?
As our nation struggles with gender equality as well as diversity and inclusion, those issues seep into boardrooms and workplaces. Tina and I have been consultants and coaches long enough to be a part of the trends. We used to advise companies to stay away from politics. Now organizations are making statements with their policies and their attitudes.
As Oprah so powerfully stated at the Golden Globes recently (echoing the female leaders in Hollywood), “a new day is on the horizon”. While Oprah was referring to women long being silenced by powerful men, the lesson extends beyond Hollywood and beyond sexual harassment. Organizations must create appropriate times and places to hold conversations regarding what is appropriate in their company. Companies are “at risk” when they don’t take the time to assess their workplace culture or have an independent group do that for them.
Every day another company, industry and celebrity is exposed for wrongdoing. At Concordia, we know that the more diverse a workplace, the more effective the workplace. And we don’t define diversity with only ethnicity, gender, and age. In response to the news and the world we currently live in, we have developed a new program on Diversity and Inclusion. And it’s not what you are thinking. There’s no guilt, shame, or uncomfortableness. It’s actually a lot of fun and we will work with you to make sure your team wants to be there. Give us a call if you want to know how Diversity and Inclusion can be both fun and profitable.