By Linda Wallace
Companies sometimes marvel when resistance to their new diversity campaign arises from a chorus of diversity advocates. On occasion, frustrated employees will write to complain that these campaigns have more to do with image and branding than with workforce fairness.
“Every time we get a new leader, he launches a new diversity campaign,” a reader wrote. “We talk a lot, and hold more meetings. But nothing ever changes.”
Beware of the sting of the unsuccessful diversity campaign! It turns true believers in companies into non-believers and increases the number of highly skilled cultural change agents — led by their frustrations — to fall into the ranks of the walking wounded.
Progress is constantly undermined by diversity campaigns that are built upon good intentions, but lack substance and measurable outcomes. Amid the hoopla, these initiatives raise expectations and hope; but when the status quo is retained, a virus of despair seeps into the office. If we find ourselves in an organization that has committed this mistake — over and over again — do we have a right to be frustrated? Yes, of course. However, we don’t have the right to give up or give in. In response, we must tap into our five powers of persuasion: passion, principle, purpose, perseverance and pride.
Passion. On any given day, a dedicated team with passion can snatch victory from a team of all-stars. Approach each day as though it is the last inning or quarter. Carry a winning attitude and a flexible game plan at all times. Let’s share our commitment to diversity with colleagues and explain, frequently, and that we have the company’s interests at heart. Passion allows us to bond with colleagues who fear our message.
Principle. Promote corporate principles rather than cultural group self-interest. Always stand for inclusion, prosperity and excellence. We must expand our view beyond the special interests of minority stakeholders or women. Many young workers (and older workers) share the same frustrations and can be enthusiastic allies. Don’t say, “I favor equal opportunity for minority groups.” Stand for everyone: “I want a workplace that allows each person an opportunity to excel and to contribute to the prosperity of our firm.”
Purpose. Remain connected with our purpose, so we can bounce back from frequent setbacks and disappointments. Once we have identified our purpose, it is easier to manage our frustrations. Our purpose strengthens our resolve and leads us to success.
Perseverance. Once we connect to a purpose, it is easier for us to advance in times when uncertainty clouds our vision and judgment. Often victory is lost because one group of warriors believes that this is a fight they can’t win — not because their opponent is stronger or smarter. There are no lost causes, but only warriors who grow weary and give up the fight. Organizational warriors need to use this skill as a primary weapon.
Pride. Organizations that do not understand the lifestyles, attitudes and core values of global customers or workers cannot survive in the new economy. A desire for excellence and market share is driving many forward-thinking diversity initiatives. Frankly, cultural literacy and cultural competencies allow American companies to grow and protect American jobs. We all benefit when American-grown companies prosper.
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