Rethinking Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

Article by Matt Whiat at Chapman & Co.

Image by JOHN TOWNER on Unsplash


Are you happy with your diversity and inclusion training efforts? More specifically, has the training you have invested in led to behaviors you want to see across your organization? If you are like a lot of organizations who are focused on diversity in the workplace and have invested in this effort with inconclusive results, keep reading because there is a different way focused not on the difference, but on the distance between people. The behaviors required to close that distance are what create a more inclusive workplace environment.

Let’s start with a short story of the power of this training. My consulting work takes me to client sites all over the world. I was recently leading a leadership training event just outside Detroit, MI. The group broke for lunch and we went to the company cafeteria. I surveyed the room for a place to sit. Normally, if I didn’t know anyone, I would sit alone and happily enjoy my lunch in private. On that day, and in that moment, there were two factors influencing my decision. The first: I was at a client site so it’s important for me to sit and talk with the clients so I get to know the organization better. The second: a recent conversation on diversity and inclusion with Fred Falker, a Saint Louis based consultant who has spent his life studying workplace dynamics, where he shared his ideas on this subject that were influencing my seemingly small decision such as who I should sit next to at lunch.

I looked left and saw a group of people I knew from the event. They looked like me, they talked liked me, they were laughing and smiling. A group of men, my age, having a good time. I looked right and there sat a person alone. She did not look like me, she was not the same age, and she was not laughing or smiling. She was quietly eating her lunch (which was very healthy and not like mine) and reading something on her phone. Normally I would go over to the table that seemed less risky from a personal or social standpoint and simply appeared easier – that group of laughing men. But instead, I thought about my conversation with Fred and his thoughts on how the differences that we all see result in distance between ourselves and others. That distance prevents us from knowing the other person. The result of this distance is a perception of difference.