Editor’s Note: Who does the responsibility for encouraging inclusivity and diversity in the workplace fall upon?
That’s a question many of us are asking in light of continued calls for representation, influence, and understanding of minority groups at all levels of organizations.
Laura Kriska, cross-cultural consultant and author of The Business of We, suggests there are invisible cultural norms that keep most of us from interacting effectively with others whether we are managing an international project, leading a group of subordinates of different ethnicities, targeting customers from different regions or countries, or courting potential B2B partners who speak a different language.
“Without spending time with other people, building trust, and learning about their cultural norms, it is easy to misinterpret what you see,” Kriska writes in her book.
The problem with inclusivity and diversity in the workplace? An Us vs. Them culture
For more than twenty years, I worked with organizations in various industries on four continents. No matter where or with whom I worked, I inevitably encountered Us versus Them divisions.
In my work with thousands of professionals, I saw that Us versus Them divides were defined not only by geography but by internal structures: sales versus marketing; front office versus back office; management versus non-management. Us versus Them divides were defined by any and all factors of identity, including age, gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, and more. I saw how these gaps impacted employees, customers, B2B partners, and supplier relationships. Boomers versus Millennials. Black versus white. Christian versus Muslim.
Every professional in every organization deals with multiple Us versus Them dynamics. The trick is figuring out which of these divides are harmless and which have the potential to negatively impact business and the people in business. If the gap is big and the job is important, then taking action is wise.