Diversity Diva Newsletter - August 30, 2010
Michelle T. Johnson


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Last month's featured question of the month is below. The answer is D. Diversity is by it's very nature all inclusive - everyone comes to work with a background or viewpoint or cultural framework that has to weave itself in with the backgrounds, viewpoints and cultures of everyone else.

Last newsletter's Featured Question of the Month

What does workplace diversity and inclusion cover?

a. Only racial minority groups and women

b. Only groups protected under local, state and federal EEOC laws

c. Whatever group is getting the most airtime on the news

d. Any person, group or culture that has to deal with fitting their lifestyle, history, viewpoint or culture into the workplace.

Looking for someone to help with your diversity needs involving writing, speaking or training? Call or email me!
On September 15, 2010, I will be the keynote speaker at the "Hire Diversity KC" event. For more information contact Michael Chavez.

For a plain old good cause that benefits Gifted Hands and DeLaSalle Education Center, attend the 100 Men in Aprons Event on September 18, 2010 from 4-7 p.m. at the Penn Valley Gymnasium in Kansas City, Missouri
For more information
Diversity Diva Newsletter

Welcome to the Second Issue of the Diversity Diva Newsletter - a little nugget in my personal mission of creating, happier, fairer workplaces that work for everyone.

Recently, someone said to me that he didn't "believe" in workplace diversity as an issue since all that people needed to do at work is exercise common sense. (This person is a freelancer who works at home alone, by the way.)

Well, I think it takes less than a five minute scan of the morning headlines to see that we're a long way from having a "common" way of looking at anything as a country.

And as difficult as that may be some days, that actually works because common could get boring and it's the spirit of individualism that ignites creativity and innovation and thus propels society forward.

So as we all press onward, please forward this to anyone interested in workplace diversity and enjoy!

Michelle a.k.a The Diversity Diva
Issues on the Ocean Floor Can't Always Be Seen from Shore
In early August, I had a one line quote in a national Associated Press story about a tragic mass shooting that happened in Connecticut.

The family of the person who was alleged to be responsible for the shooting (I'm a former journalist and former attorney, so yes I said "alleged" even though the shooter ended his rampage with killing himself) said that he did this in response to racial discrimination at his workplace.

Because this person had never filed a discrimination complaint, the follow-up story explored why workers wouldn't complain if they felt they were being discriminated against. My one quote basically said that some employees don't officially complain because they don't want the additional stress of bringing attention to themselves. That singular comment triggered one piece of hate mail and several emails from employees across the country who went in to great detail about how they felt they were being discriminated against at work.

Each of the complaining employees expressed pain that practically radiated off the computer screen. And the fact that they went to the trouble of doing a computer search of a stranger with one fairly bland quote, says volumes about their anguish.

While I get these kind of emails periodically as a result of my writing and diversity work, getting back to back to back ones really made me to stop to think how shocked each of the employers for the people would be to know how phenomenally discriminatory they were perceived as being by at least one employee. I use the word "perceived" deliberately because perception and fact don't necessarily go hand in hand. However, two of the people actually told me the name of their employers and both names were companies that everyone has heard of. Therefore, the legitimacy of their issues aside, they clearly believe their company has no room for how their brand of diversity shows up to work each day.

When people tell me that they are sure that their company doesn't have problems with diversity because they win awards and have active committees and has a top management that really cares about diversity and inclusion issues, I firmly believe in the good intentions, and in many cases, good results from these companies.

Unfortunately however, as my emails recently and over the years demonstrate, the good intentions at the top don't always trickle down and all companies could stand to figure out better ways to figure out how the daily grind of diversity and inclusion plays out at all levels.
August Diversity Diva Column
Recently, I gave a talk to a group of managers about diversity in the workplace and I mentioned "micro-inequity," a term that several of them weren't familiar with.

But even if the term is unfamiliar, it's something everyone has experienced in the workplace: feeling blown off, dismissed, ignored, slighted, subjected to different standards or inferior treatment, treated as "less than" for no good reason.

Maybe it's a job expectation that your boss has for you but doesn't have for others doing the exact same job. Maybe it's the co-worker who speaks to all the people around you but refuses to so much as make eye contact in the hall.

Unlike point-blank discrimination or bigotry, it's not something that feels clear if you're on the receiving end - and trying to point it out can look like whining or oversensitivity on the receiver's part.

As I told the managers (and friends who have gone through micro-inequity training), I love training about micro-inequities. People understand unwarranted unfairness, which can help them understand the crux of diversity.

Understanding micro-inequities can sometimes be the gateway to grasping the larger, deeper issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, etc.

In other words, we've all been "dissed" for no good reason beyond appearance or perceived status in the minds of the person not treating us very well.

Those little slights and indignities are like termites. One or two termites in isolation can't do much damage. But over time, those tiny little nibbles can erode the physical foundation where you live. In the workplace, the erosion is to the foundation of trust.

Most of the time, people don't leave jobs over micro-inequities, especially in a challenging job economy. But the daily little assaults to a person's dignity add up. And just like the damage from termites can show up in strange and unexpected places, so can the damage over time of micro-inequities.

The advice of "just communicate" that is usually the remedy when people make isolated missteps or engage in the larger behaviors that offend and detract isn't always easy to do with those "mini" offenses that accumulate over time.

Awareness of when you're on the receiving end of a barrage of unwarranted slights can be a step in choosing how to have a response instead of a reaction.

Awareness of when you're slighting others can be a step toward understanding how you have contributed to a low-grade morale problem that affects the bottom line of productivity and workplace satisfaction.

Column originally published in the Kansas City Star and is not to be reproduced, sold, published or broadcast without permission of the copyright owner (the author).

"The future enters us, in order to transform us, long before it happens."

Rainer Maria Rilke

Remember, when it comes to understanding others, seek first to understand than to be understood and when it comes to conflict, don't start none, won't be none!

Michelle T. Johnson
Diversity Diva