Organizational Lessons from the LA Clipper’s Owner’s Comments

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling alleged racist’s comments have dominated the news last couple of days.  In case you are unaware, a tape was leaked that contained an alleged conversation between Mr. Sterling and his girlfriend (it should be noted the Mr. Sterling denies that he is the voice represented on the tape,) where he allegedly makes racist comments regarding African-Americans, including NBA legend Magic Johnson.  The NBA has begun an investigation, and the results of that investigation will be released soon.

While watching this play out over the weekend, some quick takeaways for organizations emerged, including:

  • We are all pretending not to know something!  Many people are outraged by Mr. Sterling’s comments, but many are not surprised.  His past is littered with incidents that have many asking, “What did he do now?”  Many organizations have individuals who pay lip service to equality, diversity, and inclusion – and everyone knows who they are!  They sit in C-suites, on boards, and in various levels of leadership.  The strategy is to confine them a small area of responsibility and try to keep them from doing too much damage.  However, like Mr. Sterling, they will always find a way to gain public attention.
  • Your Mic is Always On!  We all have opinions, thoughts, and prejudices!  However, never think that sharing those things in private means they will stay private.  In a time where everyone has a camera phone, with a voice recorder, be advised, that privacy is a thing of the past.  If you do not want it repeated, do not say it!  Organizations must ensure employees and leadership understand that when they speak, it may be hard for the listener to separate their comments from the organization.
  •  Racism and discrimination still exist!   Despite what the Supreme Court would have one believe, racism and discrimination still exist in society and the corporate world.  Some have become savvier in hiding their true feelings and intentions, but it is bubbling just beneath the surface.  Organizations must be attuned to the workplace climate to detect where discord and inequality are festering.  Communication channels must be free flowing so information can reach the top, middle, and bottom.  Falsely believing that everyone’s world is like that of those in the C-suite is a delusion, at best.
  • Teaching is repeating until learning takes place!  There is always a chorus of individuals asking why we keep providing diversity training.  The answer is because learning has not taken place!  Until organizations see the change manifested in the workplace, training must continue.  I know there has been a host of bad training over the years, but you do not stop it, you fix it and keep going!

Center for Diversity & Inclusion seeks nominees for Outstanding Research Award

OHSU’s Center for Diversity & Inclusion seeks nominees for several 2013 Diversity & Inclusion awards, including an Outstanding Research Award.

The Outstanding Research Award recognizes completed or ongoing research work that has contributed substantially to the literature and to the field, focusing on health disparities among underserved populations, social determinants of health, issues of diversity among varied racial and ethnic backgrounds, ageism, women’s issues, sexual orientation and disability.

Nominations are due March 22, 2013.

Download a nomination form, or view the full list of Diversity & Inclusion Award categories.

Nomination Form http://www.ohsu.edu/xd/about/vision/center-for-diversity-inclusion/diversity-events/upload/2013_OHSU_Diversity_Awards_Research.pdf

List of Diversity Awards. http://www.ohsu.edu/xd/about/vision/center-for-diversity-inclusion/diversity-events/diversity-and-inclusion-awards.cfm

Using Talent Management to Support Inclusion: A How-To Guide for Organisations

From www.Catalyst.org:

In the midst of demands for innovation and business expansion, organisations in India are increasingly challenged by the need to maximize employee talent. Using Talent Management to Support Inclusion: A How-To Guide for Organisations is designed to assist human resources and diversity professionals as well as senior leaders:

  • Improve talent management systems.
  • Minimize workplace inequities and gender biases.
  • Build awareness about talent management practices.
  • Assess organizational talent management approaches.
  • Apply knowledge about talent management to a case study.
  • Enhance their understanding of talent management, gender diversity, and gender-bias risks.

To access free download, see link below:

http://www.catalyst.org/publication/518/using-talent-management-to-support-inclusion-a-how-to-guide-for-organisations

Government-Wide Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan 2011

OPM releases the Federal Government Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan

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This Government-Wide Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan (Plan) outlines the implementation of the President’s Executive Order 13583 on Establishing a Coordinated Government-Wide Initiative to Promote Diversity and Inclusion in the Federal Workforce (the Executive order). This document incorporates recommendations from stakeholders with expertise in the areas of diversity and inclusion, equal employment opportunity, and organizational change.

The Plan provides a shared direction, encourages commitment, and creates alignment so agencies can approach their workplace diversity and inclusion efforts in a coordinated, collaborative, and integrated manner. Three key goals provide a path for successful agency diversity and inclusion efforts: workforce diversity, workplace inclusion, and sustainability.

view full plan: http://www.opm.gov/diversityandinclusion/reports/GovernmentwideDIStrategicPlan.pdf

Understanding the Narrative in Workplace Relationships

 I have been in a protracted discussion with a friend over an issue and clearly, we see the same events in different ways.  My friend steadfastly holds to the “facts” of the situation and I am trying to explain my interpretation.  This reminded me of how this dynamic occurs in the workplace.

As organizations make decisions, take actions, solve problems, and conduct business the workplace grapevine gets started and what the organization thought was very good decisions are now being viewed and categorized in less than pleasant ways.  Leadership often becomes frustrated, as they believe employees are not informed about the “facts.”  They expend a great deal of energy trying to correct misinformation but unfortunately, this has little effect on changing minds. 

So, what is really going on?  The narrative of the mind takes over and the elements of mistrust, doubt, and questionable motives start to frame the discussion.  If you add cultural norms, personal backgrounds, unresolved pain, stereotypes, and bias … Whew! 

 Allow me to suggest:

  • Before you act, think about how your behavior, decisions, etc maybe interpreted by your audience. 
  • Do not assume you know how others will react to your decisions, behaviors, etc.  As previously noted, reactions can and will be based on a number of factors including cultural norms, personal backgrounds, generational issues, unresolved pain, stereotypes, and bias. 
  • Even when presented with “facts,” people will also include hunches, expectations, and guesses in their thought processes.  Do not discount the power of one’s “spiddy senses.” 
  • You have heard it many times before; it is not the intent, but the impact! 
  • If you have unresolved issues not addressed and properly reconciled they will resurface in later conflict and drive the narrative.  This is why mediation and other conflict resolution tools need to be incorporated into workplaces to help rebuild broken relationships.  I recommend transformative mediation as one tool. 
  • Never forget, Interpretations are more powerful than facts.

Workforce Lessons from the Occupy Wall Street Movement

As the world watches the Occupy Wall Street movement grow, there is much talk about its purpose, direction, and impact.  Observing the movement through my diversity lens, I offer these observations.

  • Organizations should take note that when large segments of the workforce feel disenfranchised or marginalized, employees will act either to form unions, seek employment elsewhere, or begin an insurgency (see my previous post on What is Your Organization Promoting?)  Whatever the choice, it comes at as cost to the organization.
  • Sometimes it is difficult to clearly state the need or concern.  For those who engage in the art of mediation and negotiation, we understand that it takes time for people to flesh out their needs.  While people are willing to state their explicit needs, they often do not articulate their implicit needs.  Offering patience and a willingness to listen will help bring clarity around the issues.  Warning – Do not assume you understand your employee’s needs. 
  • Be cognizant of the filters used to view the world and other people.  Our filters are neither good nor bad, they just are!  We have been programmed our entire lives with information about other people, groups, and cultures and we use this information to make decisions and judgments each day.  Suggestion – just as you have your eyes checked periodically to ensure you have the correct glasses, take the time to check your assumptions and filters.  You might find they are outdated and distorting your view of reality.

Inclusion is required both in society and the workplace to ensure the greater good and collective success.

Diversity Practitioners and Chiropractors…We have something in common!

Have you ever had a pain in your hip after doing yard work?  Many do, and we reach for ice or heat to place on the area to subdue the pain.  However, a chiropractor might suggest that you need an adjustment to ensure proper alignment.  Now, I am not arguing the benefits of chiropractic care, although I do believe it provides benefits, but rather illustrating that the pain in the hip may be a symptom of a larger problem that could and should be addressed by the proper professional.

Diversity Management is no different.  Most organizations attempt to apply diversity management to a “pain point” in an organization after something inappropriate has occurred.  What is necessary is an assessment of the entire organizational system.  Organizations are no different then the human body, in that it is a complex system based on interdependencies.

Diversity and Inclusion Practitioners are uniquely qualified to identify and develop strategies to address organizational misalignments that manifest themselves as “diversity problems.”  Much like a Chiropractor who does not dispense medicine, D & I professionals are not responsible for several key functions within organizations like hiring, recruitment, and strategic direction.  However, trained practitioners are skilled at assessing the organization and identifying other skilled professionals who should be involved in the treatment plan. 

Founded or unfounded, Chiropractors have developed a reputation based on auto accidents.  Many Chiropractors would argue that the reputation is not reflective of the profession and people are missing out of the true benefits of care by limiting their exposure to care to after accidents.  Many perceive diversity in the same vain.  Organizations seek out diversity practitioners after an “organizational accident” has occurred and are looking for the fastest roadmap back to “normalcy.”  Like most chiropractic patients, as soon as the pain subsides, the commitment to treatment fades.

There are many horror stories about interactions with a Chiropractor and there are just as many horror stories about Diversity training and programs.  In some cases, this is based on poorly trained professionals, in other cases; it is due to poor conceptual clarity about the service being provided and the customer’s role in treatment.

Diversity practitioners, like Chiropractors have to address the negative perceptions and stereotypes by educating customers on the benefits of preventive care versus injury response.