People often come to me with a problem involving getting along with others. Or they just start talking about a problem in my presence, prompting me to give an opinion.
By MICHELLE T. JOHNSON
Special to The Star
Many times I have pointed out that these are diversity issues. And the people have denied it unless they already knew me well and knew how I think.
They denied it because the average person has a fixed idea about what diversity covers. The media and our work environments condition most of us into thinking that if a disagreement or difference isnt about race or gender or a very few other major differences, its not diversity.
If I had a dollar for every time that someone leaps to bringing up something simplistically relating to race when the topic of diversity comes up, Id be a rich woman.
Simultaneous with peoples thinking about diversity in a limited fashion, they also think that diversity means discrimination or prejudice.
No, usually when I point out that an issue is a diversity issue, I mean just that. I mean that there are usually two (or more) clashing emotional or philosophical approaches to handling an issue.
The other day, for example, I witnessed a disagreement between two people trying to decide on the course of action regarding a project.
One of the people had sought, and wanted to follow, the advice of someone strongly respected in their industry. The other person, though respecting the advice and expertise of the adviser, wanted to take a greatly different course of action.
And that was a diversity issue because those two people had different styles and values for tackling a problem.
One of the people was a fan of choosing more conventional paths and approaches, especially when recommended by a respected, authoritative figure. The other person was more of a freestyle, out-of-the box thinker who takes following experienced authority as a guideline rather than a rule.
Most of us lean more toward one of those approaches rather than the other. And most of us can passionately recite why our approach is better.
And it is better for us as individuals.
In the workplace, however, we need all kinds of approaches for a project or a department or the company itself to succeed and flower.
As Scott Page, author of The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools and Societies, says, people from varied backgrounds who have different ways of thinking can more effectively come up with more and better solutions to problems than people sitting around mirroring one another.
Its no doubt easier to work with and solve problems with people who practically read the thoughts in our head and agree with those thoughts.
But easier doesnt mean better.
The beauty of diversity is also its challenge to remember that unlike the Borg from Star Trek: The Next Generation we arent just operating with one brain. And its futile to fail to acknowledge the differences all around us.
Send questions to Michelle T. Johnson on Facebook at www.facebook.com/diversitydiva.