Navigating the Minefield of Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity and Inclusion minefield

Navigating the Minefield of Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity and Inclusion need to be a priority for business leaders. In navigating the Diversity and Inclusion minefield, we need to be aware that we can be overly focused on difference and not enough on the common work purpose, goals and outcomes we share with others and on teams.

When it comes to different cultures, genders, sexual orientations and religions; political correctness and the fear of saying the wrong thing is now common. It is hard to know what to say and what not to say anymore and many people fear making off the cuff remarks and inadvertently upsetting people with different beliefs and persuasions.

We are in danger of treading on eggshells around those who are different, remaining ignorant as to how we might effectively connect and communicate or learn. This has huge impacts in the business environment where diverse teams are now the norm and the need to collaborate with many different people is key to high performance.

Why has diversity and inclusion become so important?


In the 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends survey over two-thirds (69 percent) of executives rate diversity and inclusion an important issue (up from 59 percent in 2014).

Diversity and Inclusion have always been important but there is an increased focus on these issues which is in part being driven by media attention on global political, business and entertainment scandals.

Immigration challenges, nationalism, and fear of terrorism appearing with greater frequency in the press have heightened sensitivity to diversity and inclusion. Organisations report that employees are personally concerned about what they read and hear, and they want their employers to offer perspective.

The business issue of diversity and inclusion now touches issues of employee engagement, fairness, human rights, and even social justice. Second, the need for diversity and inclusion is now an important component at work. Many large organisations now define themselves as global entities, making cultural, religious, gender, generational, and other types of diversity a business reality.

The difference between Diversity and Inclusion?


Diversity and Inclusion are not one and the same thing although many people believe that they are. Jordan T. Hudson, Director, Global Diversity & Talent Strategies in Pitney Bowes, Inc. simply defines Diversity as all of the ways we differ. Some of these differences we are born with and cannot change. Anything that makes us unique is part of this definition of diversity.

Inclusion involves bringing together and harnessing these diverse forces and resources, in a way that is beneficial. Inclusion puts the concept and practice of diversity into action by creating an environment of involvement, respect, and connection—where the richness of ideas, backgrounds, and perspectives are harnessed to create business value.

Organisations need both diversity and inclusion to drive results. I recently overheard someone describe diversity as being invited to the party and inclusion being asked to dance at the party.

Appreciate Differences for better results:


The key to overcoming the complexity around diversity and inclusion is to appreciate the differences in others. According to Forbes research, when this approach is adopted by teams the outcomes include:

  • Inclusive teams make better business decisions up to 87% of the time.
  • Teams that follow an inclusive process make decisions 2X faster with 1/2 the meetings.
  • Decisions made and executed by diverse teams delivered 60% better results.


To appreciate differences between us and other people there are three areas in relationships with others which call for special attention and skill. Conflict of values, Different needs and Conflict of needs

Diversity can be overly focused on obvious differences in religion, gender and nationality but diversity can also mean different thinking patterns, needs and values. Inclusion can simply mean allowing everyone an opportunity to express their opinions and needs and then identifying opportunities to incorporate those opinions and meet various needs in work teams.

In their ground-breaking book Reconcilable Differences Connecting in a Disconnected World authors Dawna Markova and Angie McArthur speak about how each of us possesses rational intelligence: the capacity to divide information into discrete categories, processes, and logical steps. But they say that you may not realize that the secret to building bridges between people lies hidden in your relational intelligence: the way you communicate, understand, learn, and trust.

Practice and reconcile differences:


Start with asking a series of questions:

    1. How do you connect with the others natural way of communicating?
    2. What are the different ways you each come to understand something?
    3. How do you grow your capacity to create positive meaning for the future?
    4. How do you inquire to find out what’s important to each other?


These powerful questions provide a roadmap for navigating differences regardless of their origin and moving towards shared, two way understanding of needs and values. Imagine the impact of collaboration in teams if each member learnt to use these questions in an open honest and transparent manner. It would surely pave the way for greater levels of inclusion and reconciliation of differences.

We focus on inclusion and appreciating differences for the purpose of providing a high trust, fair and respectful workplace. Find out how recent work in Zalando went.

Mary Lynch

Mary is a senior consultant with over 16 years’ experience. Mary specialises in the areas of Organisational Development, Change Management, Performance Management, Leadership and Coaching.

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