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.