6 Ways to Support Diversity and Minority Colleagues in the Workplace

Why diversity workshops and checking stereotypes helps

Businesswoman showing her boss results on tablet
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Making sure employees from different racial backgrounds feel comfortable at work has several benefits, no matter if the company has 15 workers or 1,500. Not only can a diversity friendly workplace enhance team spirit, it can also boost creativity and promote a sense of investment in the company.

Fortunately, creating a diversity friendly work environment isn’t rocket science. For the most part, it involves taking the initiative and a healthy dose of common sense.

Make the Effort

What’s the surefire way to make colleagues from diverse backgrounds feel comfortable at work? Do the basics. For example, if a coworker or employee has a name that’s difficult to pronounce, strive to say the person’s name correctly. If you’re unsure how to pronounce it, ask the employee to say it for you and listen carefully. Even if you still don’t get it quite right, such employees will appreciate the effort rather than you totally butchering their names. On the other hand, employees won’t appreciate you forcing a nickname on them or refusing to utter their name at all. That’s alienating.

Save Race-Related Jokes for Later

If the joke you want to tell at work includes a rabbi, a priest or a black guy, save it for home. Many jokes about race, religion and culture involve stereotypes. Accordingly, the workplace isn’t the best place to share them, lest you offend a coworker.

Who knows? One day a colleague could make your racial group the butt of a joke. Would you find that funny?

Even racial banter between colleagues from the same background can be off putting to others. Some people disapprove of racial humor, no matter the source of it. So, consider telling race-based jokes to be inappropriate behavior at work.

Keep Stereotypes to Yourself

Stereotypes about racial groups abound. While working, it’s necessary to check your race-based assumptions at the door. Say you think all Latinos are good at a certain activity, but the one Latino in your office isn’t. How do you respond? The correct response is no response. Sharing racial generalizations with those targeted by them will only cause emotional damage. Rather than telling your coworker that he defied your expectations, consider reflecting on how you developed the stereotype in question and how to let go of it.

Study Cultural Holidays and Traditions

Do you know the cultural and religious holidays that your coworkers observe? If they openly discuss certain customs, consider learning more about them. Find out the origins of the holiday or tradition, when they are celebrated each year and what they commemorate. Your colleague will likely be touched that you took time out to learn about the traditions that mean most to her.

Whether you’re a manager or a coworker, be understanding if an employee takes time off to observe a particular custom. Practice empathy by contemplating the traditions that matter most to you. Would you be willing to work on those days?

Include All Workers in Decisions

Think about whose input counts most in your workplace. Are employees from diverse racial backgrounds included? Listening to opinions from a diverse group of people can change the way business is done for the better. A person from a different background may offer a perspective on an issue that no one else has given. This can increase the amount of innovation and creativity in a work setting.

Hold a Diversity Workshop

If you’re a manager at work, consider enrolling your employees in a diversity training session. They may grumble about it at first. Afterwards, however, they’re likely to value their diverse group of colleagues in new ways and walk away with a deeper sense of cultural awareness.

In Closing

Don’t be mistaken. Creating a diversity friendly workplace isn’t about political correctness. It’s about making sure that employees of all backgrounds feel valued.