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Tips for Succeeding in a Diverse Workplace

Today's workplace reflects the amazing diversity of our society. Diversity is good for business by providing a variety of perspectives. And it makes the workplace a lot more interesting. We can only learn from each other, though, in an environment where different views are respected. As an employee, you can help.

Consider these tips:

Listen Carefully

Do you really listen when others speak? To better understand your colleagues:

  • Hear others out before adding your point of view. Sometimes we're so busy planning what we want to say that we miss the speaker's point.
  • Focus on the speaker. Looking at your computer or phone sends the message that you're not really interested.
  • Repeat key points in your own words to make sure you understand. You'll keep the conversation on track and let the speaker know you're paying attention.

Practice Open-Mindedness

Are you quick to argue against anything new or different? You may be shutting down valuable ideas. Help others feel safe voicing their thoughts by:

  • Considering each person as an individual. Avoid labeling other people or their opinions.
  • Encouraging participation. Ask others about their thoughts. If someone is silent during a conversation, invite them to join in.
  • Working to understand new ideas. If you are unclear about something, ask for more information.

Leverage Differences

Conflict can be uncomfortable, but it is also healthy. Respectful disagreements help us see different approaches to a problem. Working through them can increase understanding and bring teams closer together. Avoiding differences closes off communication and builds resentment.

Conflict is most constructive when everyone works together to find a fair solution. Remember:

  • Take some time to put your thoughts together before responding.
  • Ask questions. Don't assume you know what another person is thinking.
  • Address the problem or the issues central to the conflict. Never attack a coworker personally. Also, avoid "kitchen sink" disagreements, where unrelated past conflicts and hurts are brought up again.
  • Look for "win-win" solutions to issues. Everyone should feel that their views were respected and considered in the resolution. The outcome should reflect the contributions of all team members, when possible.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

The bottom line is respect. Show the same respect for your coworkers' backgrounds and beliefs that you expect for your own. When you take the time to learn from other people, your work—and your life—will be richer.

Date reviewed: 1/18/2012
Reviewers: Jay Butterman, D.O.

The articles and tools on this site are for informational and self-help purposes only. They should not be treated as a substitute for financial, medical, psychiatric, psychological or behavioral health care advice, or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified professional.