Diversity: Can we laugh, please?


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Evelina Silveira, President, Diversity at Work  http://www.yourdiversityatwork.com

If I believe my Twitter feed, I would say that the whole world is against people of my demographic. Diversity has become so serious, scary and divisive that we have forgotten how remarkably funny it can be if we do not think the world is out to offend us.

I want to share with you a few of my experiences because it is time we start seeing some of the humour of diversity misinterpretation and assumptions.

Several years ago, I received a call from a Caribbean man who was asking me if I would be interested in emceeing a black awards night.  I gladly accepted, impressed this was quite an open-minded group to invite me to facilitate the evening.  I wrote down the details, and just before I was about to hang up the phone, I had this strange hunch that came over me. Did I think maybe he did not want me – a white person?  I asked him directly: ” Michael, are you aware that I am not black?”  There was silence for a moment.  Then with an uncomfortable laugh, he responded “No.” I said, “I thought, so.” Does that make a difference now that you know that I am white?  After a momentary pause, he remarked: well, uh, yeah”. He was dumbfounded!  How was he going to tell me that he thought I was black and that is why he called me? Digging his heels, he told me that he thought I had a “black name” and that is why he called me.  I told him that I did not know what he was talking about:  a black name? Did I look black in my picture?  Trying to wheel himself out from the mess, he tried again and said:  “Well, I guess your name is Hispanic sounding!”  I told him: “Listen, I will make this easy for you.  You do not want me to emcee your event because I am white and by the way, I am not Hispanic –but close enough—Portuguese.  I wish you good luck trying to find someone!”

A former co-worker of mine who came out of the closet at work dealt with the homophobic men in the office in a unique way.  When he went into the men’s washroom, he would belt out the lyrics to Dancing Queen!

Acting as a cultural mentor for a Chinese new immigrant, I remarked about Canadian informality, and pleaded with him to not call me Mrs. Silveira. I explained to him all of the instances when it is appropriate to use titles.  Running into him one day, I asked about his weekend. He said it was not so good and that he had to take his daughter to the hospital.  He noted how impressed he was with the care in a Canadian hospital.  With a mesmerized look on his face, he indicated he had put into action what I had taught him about informal salutations while he was in the hospital.  As he was leaving, he took a look at the doctor’s name tag which read:  “Sandy Brown.” In a great gesture of appreciation, exiting he said: “Thank you, Sandy.” To his dismay and surprise, she replied:  “Dr. Brown”!  I apologized to my dear friend for a significant omission – doctors and titles! Ouch!

All of these new genders are confusing me. I am not sure that I like the images that come to my mind like when I hear the word “gender fluid”. When I hear that expression, it makes me think that you have to go to the pharmacy to buy something to take care of it – maybe in the special paper products section in the store.  May I suggest “gender elasticity” or “gender flexibility” instead?

I have many stories about encounters in Asian food markets. Frequently, the employees that I come across don’t speak English, and therefore there is much room for misinterpretation.  Excited about embarking on a Vietnamese culinary adventure, I headed to the store looking for the best sauce to complement the spring rolls I was planning to make.  I saw a Chinese man who was stocking the shelves and asked him if he could recommend a good sauce for my spring rolls. I said I wanted him to show me the sauce he used. Clearly he did not understand what I had said.  Before you knew it, we were standing in front of the Heinz ketchup.  I surmised that he likely thought this was the only kind of sauce white people use!

Whether it was one too many coffees or not enough sleep the night before, I had a twitch in my right eye during a workshop I was facilitating. It was distracting and it seemed like I could not control it. Moreover, for whatever reason, each time I looked in the direction of one of the female participants, my twitch became a wink.  Low and behold, after the training session, I went up to speak to some participants that were in her area. She immediately distanced herself and appeared uncomfortable.  The moral of the story: just because someone has a twitch does not mean he or she are flirting with you!

While running a Latin American seniors’ drop-in many years ago, the participants would cheerfully greet me with: ” Como estas, Evelina?”  (How are you, Evelina)  Reciprocally, I would reply “ Yo estoy buena, gracias.” I did this for months, thinking that I was saying:  “I am good, thank you.” A few of the older women would consistently give me strange grimaces.  One day we had two new participants from Colombia attend who decided to test me again and ask me how I was.  I gave them the same response, only this time they started laughing!   I realized that the “good” wholesome feeling I was trying to express, had, in fact, some other less innocent connotation!

After finishing my presentation about living with ADHD, I had a blind man come up to me and say:  “Wow!  I really feel sorry for you, it must be difficult bouncing off the walls all the time!”  I laughed and corrected him that I don’t bounce off walls too often but appreciated his empathy–even though I felt he was the one with the challenges!

It is time to bring the joy and laughter that diversity can bring! Feel free to share your funny incidents below.

 

The Guide to Workplace Inclusion


Preview and Purchase at www.yourdiversityatwork.com/ebook/

Read  below what others have said about our book:

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ENDORSEMENTS:

This is an important and timely book for those who want more inclusive workplaces. It moves seamlessly from concepts and terminology and translates them into practical and actionable ideas. All readers, no matter where they are on their diversity and inclusive journey, will find something valuable in this book. Evelina Silveira and Jill Walters have created an impressive resource that includes examples of promising practices from across the globe. This should be every HR professional’s companion!

~Ratna Omidvar, executive director, Global Diversity Exchange, Ted Rogers School of Management, Ryerson University

The No-Nonsense Guide to Workplace Inclusion provides a thorough and engaging roadmap of the journey toward organizational inclusion. The authors write from a position of rich, credible experience, with the result that this Guide can help companies capitalize on opportunities and skirt problems on the road to fuller inclusion of an increasingly diverse workplace. Filled with examples and evidence-based solutions, this Guide is a valuable tool for any organization working on building and strengthening its culture of inclusiveness.

~Alison Konrad, PhD, professor of organizational behaviour, Ivey Business School, London, Canada

Managing diversity and creating inclusive workplaces can seem like a daunting challenge for many organisations, but Evelina and Jill have produced a really accessible, highly practical guide to help organisations get going. What we particularly liked was that it was packed full of real examples and illustrations and lots of useful links and tools.

~Tracy Powley, director, Focal Point Training and Consultancy Ltd, United Kingdom

Because inclusion is one of the core values of the USTA, it is important for me to lead, motivate and work well with individuals of diverse backgrounds, capabilities and interests in order to achieve the outcomes we’ve set for ourselves. This book is a great resource for any organization looking to create a successful culture of inclusion.

~D.A. Abrams, chief diversity & inclusion officer, United States Tennis Association/ author, Diversity & Inclusion: The Big Six Formula for Success

This book goes a long way in addressing the systemic discrimination faced by the LGBTQ2 community in the workplace. It tells you what you need to do and gives you the resources to do it. It makes it easy for any workplace to become more inclusive in their hiring, recruitment and retention practices. I highly recommend it for every workplace.

~ Deb Al-Hamza, past president, Pride London Festival/ diversity social worker, Children’s Aid Society of London & Middlesex

I think this book is very comprehensive! There is very valuable information from ‘Foundations for creating an Inclusive Business Environment’ to ‘Best Practices in Diversity.’ I see the value for small to medium businesses that lack a dedicated human resources professional or lack the experience with implementing policies and procedures to promote an inclusive environment; however, larger businesses can also benefit greatly from the examples, detail and strategy offered. I will continue to visit many of the resources offered in the future and have made note of some of the examples.

~Lesley Oliver, diversity & accessibility coordinator, Equity & Human Rights Services, University of Western Ontario

The book is strategic, concrete and to the point. The various examples make it relevant to readers and practical. I also like the fact it is rooted in personal experiences and takes a holistic approach. The book makes one reflect on what is not obvious, helps avoid assumptions and discusses unconscious bias.

~Magali Toussaint, international career and cross-cultural coach/ diversity professional, Netherlands, http://about.me/magali.toussaint

 

 

 

 

Rewards & Recognition –Excerpt Chapter 6


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Authors:  Evelina Silveira and Jill Walters

I will never forget one of the first meetings I had when I was just starting my business. I met with a young financial services manager who was rethinking how the company was rewarding its top performers. He noticed that nothing much had changed with their rewards program over the last 20 years, even though the demographics of his sales team were completely different.

He told me that the standard reward for the top performers was an all-expense paid holiday in Las Vegas. No spouses were allowed. Predictably, the week consisted of drinking, gambling and the like. Typically the only people who would attend these events were Canadian-born males.

Eureka! He came to realize that something was not working. His workforce demographics had changed considerably. The same-old-same-old was not going to wash. Not only for him, but also for his top performers who were now comprised of women, single parents, immigrants, religious minorities and those who liked to take a vacation with their spouses instead of leaving them at home.

If he continued with the historical trip to Las Vegas every year, would he really be rewarding all of his top performers? No. Most would not want or be able to attend. And what effect would this have on employee morale and feelings of inclusion?

Bottom line: Critically examine your rewards and recognition program and see if it is truly inclusive.

Rewards & recognition ideas

Special recognition pins, thank you letters, gift cards, time off or a write-up in your company newsletter don’t cost a lot, but they show that you have made an effort to reward your employees. Here are some more ideas:

  •  offer prime parking spaces—free! for a month!
  • hold contests with prizes for the best and most cost-effective reward system
  •  install a diversity & inclusion suggestion box in your workplace for employees where you can post problems or issues you would like to address and employees—even those who may be too shy to speak up or who wish to remain anonymous– can submit their ideas and may even be awarded a prize if theirs is considered the best
  •  ask your top employees what they need to succeed, extending that privilege to all employees, contingent on job performance

In her book, Care Packages for the Workplace- A Dozen Little Things You Can Do to Regenerate Spirit At Work, Barbara Glanz discusses more low cost and no cost ways to make employees feel appreciated valued and respected.

Consider how you would feel if you received the following types of recognition from your boss?

Business Cards
Ensure everyone in the organization has a business card reflecting the uniqueness of the employee it represents. Consider adding a quotation, a motto or a graphic.

Handwritten Notes
Send a handwritten note to at least one employee each week. Pick one consistent day of the week to get it done. You could recognize the special contribution this person has made to the creation of a better workplace.

Success Stories
Collect company success stories on video or audiotape. Interview the people involved. It is a great way to demonstrate company pride and to introduce your organization to a new employee. Put the two-ton policy manual aside. Instead offer them a recorded compilation of your success stories. It makes them feel included right from the beginning and reinforces what a welcoming team they’ll be working with.

The best sources of recognition and rewards are tied specifically to the needs and interests of the recipient. There are a number of online programs and checklists for free that you can use that make a busy manager’s job much easier. Take a look at the following website. It’s filled with alignment tools, worksheets and more.
http://bit.ly/1tZf25z

Evaluating a rewards & recognition program

Imagine for a moment that you are a financial services manager and the time has come to evaluate your rewards program. As a result, you discover how to reward and recognize more employees in more meaningful and perhaps cost-effective ways.

With that in mind, here are five questions to keep in mind when you are putting together a rewards and recognition program:

1. Are the criteria for rewards, incentives and recognition transparent?

Check at least once a year to ensure employees in all divisions are aware of them. Mention them during your employee orientation and in your employee communications.

2. Is the process for recognition well understood by all?

Supervisors and departmental managers can be responsible for this. If people don’t understand the process, then it is not a fair one.

3. Does the staff person still want to be rewarded and recognized in the same way this year as in previous years?

Maybe last year they received a day off, so maybe this year they would prefer a gift certificate.

4. Do you have a yearly plan in place which analyzes the relevancy and fairness of the recognition, incentive and reward programs?

Here is an opportunity for you to check with various departments and staff in different positions to see if the rewards are really what they want, and if they feel that they are truly attainable.

5. Is this the best way staff wishes to be rewarded?

This is an important question to be asked, either when a staff member first comes on board or as part of their orientation package. Some people, for instance, don’t like public displays of recognition. Make a check-list.

One of the biggest morale busters I have seen as a corporate trainer is when an employee felt that he could do the training but the company hired a corporate trainer instead. This can spell disappointment for the employee and may even lead to a sourness that spills into the diversity training session in ways such as discrediting the trainer or hijacking the workshop.

As a result, what could have been a worthwhile experience is spoiled. Trust me, if you don’t want to use an employee, at least give him a reason why or try to involve him in other ways that can help nurture his interest and competencies.

Ultimately, your goal is to create a culture of inclusion where the top talent you’ve hired is engaged and feel they can be themselves, where creativity and innovation are fostered and encouraged, and where the process is effective and yet cost-effective. As we mentioned before, juggling all these balls can be a daunting task.

Copyrighted 2015 Diversity at Work/Diversity Partners

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