Inclusively Exclusive

Plenty of diversity and inclusion programs are based on this myth that we have to treat our colleagues and customers the same. Nothing could be further from the truth. Ask a parent if they treat all their children the same. It cannot be done. Some children need extra attention while others can thrive on less concern.

We confuse treating everyone the same with being fair. There is a big difference. Being fair holds everyone to a reasonable standard but does not preclude the application of that standard on an individual basis.

The inclusively exclusive bug recently bit my office. Last year management mandated a telework schedule that required everyone to be in the office so many days of the week regardless of their job function. Granted there were some folks who had to be the office every day to manage drop in customers. There were others who did not have to be in the office at all who perform most of their duties virtually. By framing everyone’s job as a mortar and brick vocation, those virtual workers who now had to be in the office, had their effectiveness reduced. One size does not fit all.

You see the inclusively exclusive virus in hiring and recruitment. It is camouflaged under the rubric of hiring for cultural fit. We want the youngest, brightest and those that think like us. You may achieve diversity by hiring for cultural fit. The problem surfaces when cultural fit does include the definition of everything that makes us different. You may be generationally diverse but not racially diverse. You may be gender diverse but not temperament diverse. You may be politically diverse but not culturally diverse.

How about this notion of throwing around labels in diverse workplaces? I had a boss that called me Chief because I was an American Indian. In one office where I worked, we called our information technology technician the I.T. guy. I was in a recent meeting and someone asked why is the diversity and inclusive guy in the room when this meeting is about program and not support.

We are human beings, not robots. We all want a role in the workplace but we do not want that role to completely define who we are as individuals.

So the next time the pizza boy, the cable guy or the Avon Lady comes to your door, remember our vocations only define a small portion of who are in the created order. We have a name. Just ask us.

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