How to Finesse Value Differences in the Workplace

By Chaer Robert, CWCC Member

In the past 30+ years, I only once had a white boss for a couple years.  And he insisted he was Jewish, not white. For most of those 30 years, our staff has been majority minority—the workforce of the future. Since we are sister agencies with the Office of Disability Rights, I have also had coworkers who are blind, deaf, or in a wheelchair.  Being in the minority forces me to pay more attention, challenge my assumptions, and acquire the skills of looking at things through more than one cultural lens.  For me, coworkers and colleagues can be a bridge to other groups of women, so that I can more successfully serve a wider variety of Denver women.

Most of us are more comfortable with people like us, versus people unlike us. Shared values and shared experiences reassure us.   This influences our daily choices.  Most people are more likely to find diversity in their work lives, rather than their neighborhoods, families, voluntary associations, churches or even schools.  Thus the workplace can challenge us to learn more about other cultures and groups and learn how to finesse value differences.

Diversity is more than believing every individual is unique.  It includes learning about patterns of experiences shared by many of a common background.  Who is likely to be mistaken for a client versus a professional? Who is assumed to be clumsy on computers? Who interrupts, and who gets interrupted?  Who is more likely to be considered aggressive, and who is likely to be viewed as unassertive?

Having a workforce that reflects a customer base increases the likelihood that all people will feel comfortable doing business with you.  Having diversity within the decision- making ranks increases creativity and the likelihood that your products and services will appeal to a broader base.  Having the skills to work well with people from all backgrounds is a key tool of success.

Chaer Robert is the Director of the Denver Women’s Commission.
The Denver Women’s Commission is part of the Agency for Human Rights and Community Relations for the City and County of Denver.  We advocate for women. We empower women through coalition building and disseminating information. We monitor and recommend legislation and proposed policy changes affecting women.  To learn more, visit www.denvergov.org/women.

6 responses to “How to Finesse Value Differences in the Workplace

  1. Well said Chaer! How amazing to have had a career filled with opportunities for diversity. I am often asked why I am such a proponent for women. People want to know if I believe women are superior. My own bias aside, I support women’s evolution into the entrepreneurial sector not because we are better but because we bring diversity of thought and opinion to what was once viewed as an old boys club. Thanks for your tireless work on diversity.

  2. Chaer,
    As a business owner I appreciate your fourth paragraph reminder, when we empower our employees creative increases. I don’t know where I would go for indepth analysis of issues and legislation if you were not always right available when I call or email. Thanks, Barb

  3. Excellent points, Chaer. As demographics shift, so must workplace culture. Smart businesses already have figured this out and have embraced inclusiveness internally and in their external communications.

  4. I am so glad to have read this. The workplace is an important place to learn and grow with the influence of diversity. Personally, I have only worked in settings where I am the minority, and I would not change anything about my experience. The opportunity to work with a diverse group of people allows me to see through the eyes of someone with different history and experience from my own. Had I not worked in such diverse environments, I would be less cultured and less able to interact with people who are so different from myself in a productive and understanding way. The more diverse a business is, the more its employees will learn; thus, optimizing the success it can harbor.

  5. Thank you for your post. There is increasing value in being uncomfortable and moving beyond our own comfort zones.

  6. Chaer has succintly developed so many rich themes of diversity and inclusiveness. It is so important to have the staff of organizations reflect our customer base. And I love the concept to finesse value differences. Not just to recognize differences but to engage in real dialogue with each other always trying to grow and develop. Thanks for your post.

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