DIVERSITY DIVA

Diverse goals await in 2014

Updated: 2014-01-07T23:49:50Z

By MICHELLE T. JOHNSON

Special to The Star

In the first full week of a new year, resolutions for the workplace seem particularly appropriate.

One of the reasons that some people discount diversity and inclusion issues as a priority is because the concepts seem fuzzy.

But values put into action should never seem unimportant or fuzzy.

So the following are five New Year’s resolutions I would love to see people in workplaces all across the country commit to.

1) Commit to the people in front of you instead of to the groups you think they represent. Your co-workers, your boss, your subordinates, your customers, your clients, anyone you come in contact with in a direct and personal way should be dealt with directly and personally. When it comes to business, be about business. Understanding helps, but the most important thing in any workplace encounter is to keep centered on work.

2) Just accept that sometimes people are going to be offended by what you say or what you do. If you’re lucky it won’t happen much. If you’re not so lucky and it happens a lot you need to examine what you’re saying or doing rather than always blaming someone else’s reaction or response.

3) Examine the number of times you find yourself offended by the words or actions of others. I’m not one that says that if you’re offended you’re being oversensitive. Keep your ear to the ground to see whether others consistently share your reactions. If those others exist, find a concrete, constructive way to approach the common problem.

4) Step outside your comfort zone at least once a month. By comfort zone I mean talk to and engage someone you wouldn’t ordinarily talk to because you think you lack things in common. For example, if you are straight and there is a gay co-worker you’ve never spoken to, on a break or another appropriate time, ask about that person’s family or how the holidays were spent. Don’t feel you need to ask about what makes you two different. Ask what you would ask 20 other co-workers. The key part of this resolution is to commit to the habit of interacting with other co-workers, people with whom you share a paycheck.

5) Resolve to get to the bottom of any interpersonal disputes you have in the workplace. Ask yourself the tough questions, such as whether there are any uncomfortable, unconscious biases. Ask yourself whether there are similar problems in your past, and threads that might connect them. For example, if your issues over the years, in more than one workplace, appears to be with women, examine why that is. You’re the common denominator. And ask yourself how this is truly affecting your job or the job of another person.

My suggestion of resolutions is very broad and general as it applies to working with different types of people. Each person knows his own blind spots when it comes to dealing with others. As with all areas that get addressed at the beginning of a new year, it’s never a bad idea to begin again.

Send questions to Michelle T. Johnson on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/diversitydiva. Follow her at Twitter.com/divaofdiversity.

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