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While the topic of diversity and inclusion isn’t new, the new decade has definitively called for companies across the US to reexamine their D&I initiatives. Employees are looking to join organizations with an inclusive corporate culture. Consumers are becoming more loyal to brands with a proven commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). And more and more laws and regulations are being enacted to support greater diversity in the workplace.
D&I has traditionally been focused on characteristics such as gender, race, religion, culture and language, but there is another, less visible layer to diversity, created by the variety and nuances in each human’s emotional perspectives. Depending on these diverse perspectives, there are different ways in which individuals contribute, communicate, learn and make decisions.
In this 3-part blog series, we’d like to introduce our new guide to better understanding the diversity of personal styles that comes from our innate differences as human beings. We’ll also outline the steps to integrate diversity and inclusion in your organization so that you can thrive—together.
is the collective of differences and similarities that includes individual and organizational characteristics, values, beliefs, experiences, backgrounds, and behaviors.
One of the most fascinating and beautiful things about people is that each one of us is unique. There is no one else like you on this planet, including your genetic code, your appearance, and your personality—your operating system that governs how you think, feel and act.
It is part of the human condition that people have different needs and values, which form the basis of their belief systems. These beliefs ultimately drive behaviors and actions and manifest as diverse skills, personality traits, work styles and leadership strengths.
For example, some people need order and control to help them stay focused, prepared and grounded. When their environment and experience lacks these fundamentals and there is constant dynamic change, they are likely to feel frustrated and dissatisfied. In this same environment, however, others thrive because they need to express and experience variety, experimentation or innovation to contribute at their highest level.
What could change in an organization if everyone had an understanding of where these needs and personal styles come from, what they mean and how to navigate them?
The innate differences are emotional in nature and very deeply ingrained in what a person needs to feel secure, empowered and confident. Each one of us has a unique set of emotional filters, through which we view the world. Who we are, our personalities, what energizes us, how we communicate, learn and make decisions, are influenced by our emotional filters.
These differences are less obvious than, say, ethnicity and language. This makes them harder to recognize and leaves a lot of room for misinterpretation and misunderstanding, which leads to conflict, dissatisfaction, and ultimately, productivity breakdowns. When people see the world differently, it’s easy to default to judgment rather than understanding and appreciation.
Consider this common workplace scenario. One person, let’s call her Jane, expects colleagues to be brief, direct and efficient to save time, because that’s her own personal approach. Another coworker, let’s call him John, is more friendly and flexible and usually starts conversations by asking about the weekend, family, etc.
While these two colleagues simply have two different styles based on individual sets of socialized values and expectations of others, each approach is likely to cause the other to feel insulted. Jane may perceive John as someone who “beats around the bush”, while John may feel offended by Jane’s laser-focus on tasks in their conversations. To bridge this gap, Jane and John must understand each other’s personal communication styles and learn how to better collaborate based on these insights.
These types of personality differences in how people think, feel and act are the root cause of more diversity issues that one might realize. In these cases, the real challenge revolves around unmet or misinterpreted emotional needs.
Every human being has emotional needs, including those that arise in the workplace. Misunderstandings and conflicts happen when people assume incorrectly that everybody else has needs similar to their own. In reality, we are all different: for example, some people work with and through people to be productive and motivated, while others work better independently.
When our emotional needs are respected and met, we feel safe, empowered and confident, and when they are ignored or misunderstood, we feel threatened, resentful or angry. Not speaking up out of fear or resentment results in more conflicts, and this inability to have meaningful conversations impacts our satisfaction, productivity and overall performance.
is the biggest barrier to building trust, which is the foundation for great teamwork, high performance and productivity.
By not only allowing emotions into the workplace but also consciously shaping them, business leaders can create an environment where everyone has the right conditions to thrive. This includes self-awareness and skills to properly name, manage and communicate one’s own feelings and needs in a way that can be received by others.
It also includes learning the emotional language of others, catching oneself when triggered by an interaction and recognizing that another person is not a threat, but rather, a different individual with a different set of needs.
Self-awareness and awareness of others is a personal responsibility of everyone in the organization—leadership, managers, teams and peers. At the end of the day, while top executives can greatly influence the culture, every person who is a part of it plays a role in creating, sustaining and celebrating a diverse workplace.
“Emotional intelligence is a way of recognizing, understanding, and choosing how we think, feel, and act. It shapes our interactions with others and our understanding of ourselves. It defines how and what we learn; it allows us to set priorities; it determines the majority of our daily actions. Research suggests it is responsible for as much as 80 percent of the ‘success’ in our lives.”
Joshua Freedman, a specialist on emotional intelligence, an author, and the Chief Executive Officer of Six Seconds, a non-profit dedicated to emotional intelligence
Stay tuned for the next blog in our 3-part Diversity & Inclusion series next week, where we will discuss how to bring diversity and inclusion into your organization.
Download the full Embracing Diversity and Inclusion guide to learn more about the different personal styles, understanding and managing emotions, how to create a culture of diversity and inclusion, and the significant impact it can have on your bottom line.