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.
Is it time to reassess your office rules?
When I was in my twenties I went to visit my girlfriend Anne at her parents’ home on the Kilmarnock River. Once there, I found myself helping with their spring cleaning ritual, and a ritual it was! It included setting up their porch for outdoor summer relaxation. Down from the attic came bright chairs and tables, seat cushions, and a huge 1960s indoor-outdoor carpet. Trying to show initiative, I started to unroll it.
“Stop!” came a roar from their entire family. Startled, I froze. They explained, “We start unrolling from this corner, not that corner.” “Why?” I asked. The answer: Because that is the way it had always been done.
Now Anne’s family were loving and generous. They invited me to share their home and go out on their boat. They treated us to a crab feast and they lavished attention on us. They just had rules. Some made sense to me, and all made sense to them. I see the same phenomenon in many workplaces. Think about the rules that you have in your office. If you use the last of the paper in the copy machine, do you replace it or is it the job of the person who follows you? If the workday starts at 8:30, is it okay to arrive at 8:31 or even 8:51?
Of course we need rules, but problems arise when we don’t communicate and assess them. So ask yourself, “Are office rules serving you or are they getting in the way?” If you’re not sure, ask your colleagues — they will be happy to tell you if your rules are in their way!
Once you figure out the keepers, communicate them clearly and without judgment. I find starting with “I would appreciate it if…,” is a great way to get the conversation started.
Let me give you an example of a rule done right. In a workplace I frequent, there is a sign above the copier that reads, “Use the second tray and input this code, or the copier will jam.” I appreciate that clarity. I don’t want to be the one who jams the printer and creates a big hassle. And that is really the litmus test for good rules: Do they make the workplace a more efficient, friendly, and productive environment for everyone?
What are some of the rules in your workplace, written or unwritten?
This is a story of killing with kindness. Well, there isn’t any actual murder involved, but you’ll see what I mean.
About 30 years ago, when I was the director of training for a large national bank, I had the privilege of working with a kind, conscientious, and hardworking teller trainer named Donna.
She ran a two week training course for 15-20 tellers at a time. At the end of each day, a quiz reinforced the day’s teachings. After the two weeks, there was a comprehensive test. If the trainees passed the quizzes and the test, they would go into the branches for a six-week probationary period. If all went well, they would then become full-fledged tellers.
It was the bank’s policy that if a probationary employee had a shortage or overage, they were immediately terminated. One of the branch managers called me and asked me, as director of training, why so many tellers were ill-equipped when they came to his branch. As we did an analysis, we started to notice that several would-be tellers had suffered this fate.
I discussed this quandary with Donna and asked her to pull the fired tellers’ tests and quizzes. I began to notice a common thread: lots of eraser marks and crossed-out answers on the ex-employees’ papers. It was then that I learned that kind-hearted Donna was helping the struggling students with their tests.
I explained to her that we had a system in place — the tests and quizzes — that worked. But because she was ‘helping’ the tellers, it wasn’t working. She had to stop. She agreed.
Fast-forward eight months: Tellers were still getting fired during the probationary period. One teller had just purchased a car that he now was going to have to return, and another failed teller was going to have to break a lease on her apartment. In both cases, the two would-be tellers simply didn’t have the needed math skills, a fact that should have been evident on the tests. It was clear that Donna had helped them, and I called her on it. “I just want everybody to succeed,” she lamented.
My response: “Wouldn’t it have been kinder to those people if they had known in the first week of training that it wasn’t going to work out?”
She burst into tears. “I blew it.” Donna resolved to stop changing test results for the tellers, and our probationary firings decreased dramatically.
No one can blame Donna for doing what she perceived to be kind and compassionate. But in reality, her actions were just the opposite. When we work with people, it’s important to ask ourselves: “What is my motivation? Am I really serving the best interests of the employee?”
What employer policies do you have in your workplace that help employees?