Diversity in the workplace – Opposites don’t really attract!

“Diversity” seems to be the buzz word these days. It seems to have permeated into all facets of life and business –  sports, workplace, politics etc. For the PR savvy person, there can be no doubt that a liberal sprinkling of the “diversity” word can make the difference in attracting the right type of attention and opportunities. Yes we all know how to say this politically correct word when we are out in public. And yes, in our hearts of hearts, we may even believe in the merits of diversity in our lives. If nothing else, it exposes us to a variety of opportunities to learn and develop ourselves and also prevents us from being inflicted with the curse of “group think” where we all believe and think alike because we have no other reference points.

However, when was the last time you dared to really listen to yourself to find out just how diverse you really are? I ask because I believe that most of us are living in self denial. We have perceptions and stereotypical beliefs which belie any claim to diversity. And worse, we do not even acknowledge it.

The world renowned  Implicit Association Tests (IATs) assist people to acknowledge perceptions and thoughts which they wouldn’t in public and helps us  appreciate our underlying prejudices which often give rise to some of our behaviours. I feel that just as we have a whole army of tests these days to assess a whole hosts of things about us such as our IO, EQ, LOQ, numerical, beauty, physical fitness, etc, we should also regularly undertake IATs . More importantly, we should also insist that our leaders (business, political, church, etc) do likewise to understand their diversity preferences and limitations and the possible impact / side effects of these limitations on their leadership styles, strategies and policies on their followers.

The fact of the matter is that, in the workplace, opposites do not attract. Generally speaking:

  • Managers  and employers engage people who are clones of themselves and “Mini Me’s
  • Some  professions deliberately offer opportunities to people from a specific background and social circle
  • Job advertisements are deliberately placed in specific media to focus on  people with particular interests, thereby inadvertedly excluding a more  diverse selection of talent
  • People  with diversely different opinions to the majority are viewed, at best, as politically naive and at worse, as loose cannons.

The next time someone extols the virtues of their diversity characteristics, either at work or at play, take care to choose your response wisely. Either  humour them, nod and smile sweetly or invite them to do one of the various tests in the diversity or Implicit Association
Test (IAT).

With the latter, they will at least be more self aware of their limitations…and what to do about them!


Whilst you’re at it, why don’t you try it out yourself…and let me know you learnt about yourself.

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