By Danielle Cortijo
Much like the snowflake, we are all unique. There is no one else in this world who is exactly like you. Awesome, right? Yes ma’am and sir!
In the workplace, you may find the same is true. Any number of differences are present and create the diverse environment you call your day-to-day professional experience.
There are so many ways we differ from one another—cultural/ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations, religious beliefs, sense of identities, lived experiences, and much more. Navigating these many varied differences is not always easy. Many of us have been known to slip up or trip over ourselves a time or two—or even downright get things all wrong.
But, fear no more! Today I share three things to remember when maneuvering through the workplace to help you do your best to recognize, embrace, and celebrate the diverse and inclusive environment we should all strive to be a part of!
- You get a bias… You get a bias… YOU GET A BIAS! (insert talk show host voice here)
I know it isn’t easy walking into a new and unfamiliar space. We’ve all experienced the subtle tensing of the stomach on our first day at a new office or work setting. Among the desk supplies, skillsets, and expectations we bring along with us, we also show up with an invisible bag of bias that we do our best to keep tucked away.
Bias is that thought in your mind, good or bad, that creeps into your head space and allows you to immediately form opinions about the people you meet at work—often at first glance.
While bias can sometimes feel like an ugly word, the truth is, it’s simply something we either knowingly or unknowingly bring to the table every day.
From infancy into adulthood, we venture through life encountering and experiencing so many different things; it can be understandable that we create beliefs about the things and people we have met. It is the onset of these moments that shape how we view the world and those within it—hence, biases.
In our professional lives, we encounter different walks of life and sometimes the biases we have can manifest snap judgments in our minds of who those people are, without even officially meeting them. It’s important that each person we work with or meet in our business environments are met without prejudice or bias. It can be counterproductive to make any sort of assumptions in a first introduction or otherwise.
We all have different life experiences that have helped to shape who we are today. It is critical to “meet people where they are.” Allow them to present their truth to you. There is no need to assume on your own who or what they are. Just as you would hope to be received without assumptions and respected for who are, so does everyone else—try to remain as assumption-free as possible. Which brings me to…
- Be Open!
I know all too well how difficult it can be to meet new people sometimes, especially at work. Each and every person has something a little different to offer and it is important to remain open so you do not miss the opportunity to find out what those things might be.
If you are too caught up in the fact that someone may have a culture or religion you are not accustomed to or comfortable with, you could miss out entirely due to your own hang-ups. What if you decide not to engage the new Business Analyst who is a guru at their line of work because you know they are a part of or identify with the LGBT community? The chance to network with this individual would be lost because of the inability to remain open to people who are different from you. Missed chances to engage with incredible people, regardless of their differences from you, is truly the biggest loss.
- Inclusion matters!
I cannot think of a time when someone did not want to be genuinely considered and included when it mattered. Including others in work settings assists staff members in feeling valued and a part of the organization as a whole. We all want to contribute or make our mark, right? When we fail to involve others, the ripples of exclusion can be a morale-crusher or could even result in turnover.
At some point in our careers, we all want to be included when it counts. Allow diversity to be a growing and supportive tool, not a hindrance, in your professional environment. There is so much we can learn from each other, largely due to the beneficial professional experiences we can share with others.
Let’s do our best not to alienate one another. Communicate thoroughly and share as often as possible. Be a proponent of inclusion and watch the beautiful diverse nature of your team and organization carry you all to new heights!
About the Author: With a Bachelor’s in Communications and actively pursuing her Master’s in Complementary Alternative Medicine, Dani has an extensive professional background in the public and private sectors focused in Contracts, Human Resources, QA, and Process. Currently the Procurement Specialist on the amazing Administrative team for KAI Partners, she is working diligently to assist in the successful acquisition of procurements for the company. When her world slows down a bit, she loves scouring for an incredible deal on retro sneakers with her partner in crime, listening to music 24/7, and laughing as much as humanly possible.