We may like to think of ourselves as tolerant souls who hate bigotry, but are we doing enough to make employees or colleagues from different backgrounds and cultures feel comfortable in our work environments?
I’ve just posted on the site a new article by business consultant T.T. (“Mitch”) Mitchell, emphasizing the importance of acknowledging diversity, particularly in the workplace, and respecting people who may be “different” in one way or another. As Mitch writes, good habits we develop at work regarding interpersonal relationships, will follow us once we get outside as well.
Nothing new about this of course, but something we cannot emphasize too much, so kudos to Mitch, who writes a regular newsletter on management skills.
It’s imperative, of course, that our respect for someone who’s “different” – or for any other human being for that matter – should be 100% genuine. As always, empathy is king! Nothing can be worse than a condescending or patronizing attitude to a human being who, for whatever reason, is in a weaker position than you are in the society in which you’re living or working.
I was brought up in South Africa, where paternalism or patronization towards the underprivileged class used to be, unfortunately, a common behavioral problem.
Communication with subordinates – if they happened to belong to this unfortunate stratum of society – was often limited to abrupt commands that were either loud and offensive, or pretentious and patronizing.
Housewives would sometimes insist on being addressed by their domestic servants as “Madam.” They would issue such inane instructions as “Madam would like some tea now… please bring it to Madam.”
The hapless servant, long accustomed to being treated as a child, would often show his or her insecurity by being excessively polite or flattering. He would then be accused of hypocrisy or calculating behavior. If, on the other hand, he would speak confidently or correctly, he would be branded as an upstart, showing impudence and arrogance.
The amazing thing was that the employer, as far removed from the servant’s fears, aspirations and uncertainties as the moon is to the earth, would scratch his head and wonder why the poor laborer never took any pride in his work!
What do you say?
BTW, if you’re about to apply for a job and think you might have to confront unreasonable prejudice, this is an article you’ll want to read:
How to Overcome Job Interview Bias
Azriel Winnett is the author of the highly acclaimed, eye-opening book How to Build Relationships That Stick. An enhanced edition is now available as a paperback.