All that Diversity Training & Can’t See Past Your Own Color

My wife works for a global organization which allocates significant resources annually to Diversity Recruiting and Training, but is it adding more value and making improvements in how employees view Diversity?

In addition to their investment in Diversity Programs, they also have well developed Mentoring (Coaching) Program. My wife is in Senior-level Management and participates in the mentoring as well as in the Diversity Programs as both a leader and participant. A few years ago, one of the people she mentored had performance issues. Her Coachee, a young African-American woman, spent more time trying to get ahead than focusing on her development issues and work in general.

But I’m Entitled!

Despite her development issues and lack of focus on her job she felt she deserved to be promoted because in her mind she had served her time even though she had not performed to expectation; therefore, she had not earned the promotion based on merit.

Through coaching sessions and continual discussions, my wife tried to help her correct her course of action so she could do what was expected for advancement to the next level. Over time, the Coachee had more and more of an issue with the thought that she was not going to get promoted during the next promotion cycle. In the Coachee’s mind she began to state she was feeling like she was being treated unfairly. I have to tell you, my wife is one of the most fair-minded people I know. Heck, after 18 years of marriage, I don’t even get any special treatment or cut any slack.

I’m Being Discriminated, Really?

This went on for a few more months with no change in performance from her Coachee. When they met again for a coaching session, she said it. “As a minority black woman, I feel like I am being discriminated against”. Oh…what a bad move playing the minority card with my wife.

It might help to know, when my wife was a child, she was injured in a car accident and requires a wheelchair for mobility. Despite this she has quietly and unassumingly achieved great accomplishments. She graduated 3rd in her high school class (over 300 students), she graduated with an Accounting degree from a national ranked University and went on to pass the CPA exam. Most extraordinarily she is the biological mother to our children. Her perseverance and determination are an inspiration to all.

So the mistake (huge) made by her Coachee was she only saw a white woman as her coach. After hearing from her Coachee that she felt being a minority was the cause of her unfair treatment (I have to work very hard to get ahead), my wife in her profound wisdom, looked her straight in the face and said, “I am the smallest minority group this company has.”

A Minority Group of “1”

With thousands of employees in North America (at the time of this conversation) my wife was the only woman in a wheelchair. Her minority group is made of “1”. You can’t get any smaller than that yet she had been promoted through the ranks and was now senior-level management.

This poor Coachee just looked at my wife with a blank stare, to ignorant to see that diversity is not a race, color, or gender issue, but is about individual differences. Even though this company expends significant resources on Diversity issues, is it working?

Rethinking Diversity Training

So when you think about your Diversity Program, is the program primarily focused on different race, gender, or color? Is it lowering barriers for collaboration? Does it try to make the majority feel guilty? Is your Diversity Program raising barriers or lowering them?

Many organizations are re-thinking their Diversity Programs because of the controversial issues raised and moral considerations. Many have determined the programs to be inefficient and even counterproductive.

Difference Management is Preferred

These groups are focusing more on Difference Management instead of Diversity Management to avoid the trap of groups being given inappropriate power and entitlements. Difference Management focuses on an individual’s needs. Differences define our uniqueness – nationality, culture, gender, beliefs, values, physical ability and behaviors. These differences define mankind, allow progress and contribute to the dynamics of the world.

Differences should not be an obstacle to good working relationships.

You need to see more on Difference Management? Get your copy of the free ebook 7 Keys to Employee Engagement now.

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