We, as a country and people group, are on the brink of overcoming a long-held, and unacceptable, mindset. Specifically, the incorrect use of the phrase ‘race’ in respect to human traits.
I respectfully submit that our success, or failure, to overcoming our people-focused shortfalls will be directly linked to changing our language, thoughts, as well as long-held prejudices.
I respectfully challenge you to consider the thoughts I presented during a discussion in one of my masters level classes on diversity on 01 August 2006.
Here is an edited excerpt from the discussion;
I respectfully submit my decision to not use the term race to categorize fellow humans. The term race frequently brings an immediate negative stereotypical mindset to the discussion. Particularly, the term insinuates that people of different gender, social, ethnic, cultural, or religious heritages are automatically inferior or superior because of their inherent yet benign heritages. This decision is my way of making sure that I focus on the people aspect while trying to make sure that I do not fall victim to an artificial and unacceptable mindset.
I maintain the following personal and professional opinion:
We, a single race of bipedal silicon bags of mostly water humanoids, have experienced both biological-genetic and psycho-social cultural drifts but we are still the same. These drifts bring behavior decisions that Kottak (2003, p. 13) called ‘Universals’; decisions based on human experience influences. (Duncan, 2006)
To paraphrase a thought process proposed by Lester (2002); “By design or accident (evolution) (italics added) we share the same DNA allele structure.” (cited by Duncan, 2006)
I admit that we need to understand how some people might consider elements of ethnic diversity to be negative. I respectfully assert that any effort that helps us understand the interactions of peoples of different gender, ethnic, religious, social, and cultural heritages is not really a negative thing. Some may perceive the process as negative. I ask; is it really? I respectfully submit our corporate participation in this specific learning adventure as evidence that we need to better understand all cultural perspectives.
1. Busted Concepts of Stereotype. I submit that the opening paragraphs of Carr (2003), Chapter 7 regarding African Americans, Chapter 8 regarding American Indians, Chapter 9 regarding Asian Americans, Chapter 10 regarding Arab Americans, and Chapter 11 regarding Latino Americans as evidence of a significant positive that results from efforts toward diversity in all places of work. In each of the presentations Carr provided evidence of the challenges of the stereotypical thoughts vs. the facts of reality.
The sooner that we, as a people, learn to ignore the stereotypes and get to know the person that is the face, the better we will be in supporting each other. Basically, the more we know about each other’s heritage the more we will learn about our own heritage.
2. Workplace Efficiency Improvements. Carr (2003), Kottack (2003), and Somers (2001) provided several areas in the reading assignments that lead to the proverbial business fiscal bottom line and competitive advantage. Consumers come in all shapes and sizes, cross both genders, and come from many ethnic, cultural, and religious persuasions. It is logical that a business must be able to address these differences with intelligence to remain competitive. I reason that the most sensible method of providing intelligent service that crosses artificial barriers is to approach the barrier from first-hand knowledge.
I sense that businesses should strive for diversity because it is the proper course of action. A secondary benefit is the competitive advantage impact to the proverbial bottom line.
3. Two (or more) heads are better than one. For this discussion, two or more experiences are better than one. From a leadership perspective there are many models (rubrics) for decision making. The actual model does not so much matter as the process and people involved. I suggest that the key element in any decision making model is the gathering of the facts and options. Very few decisions of leadership are so simple as to not involve or affect several or many peoples. If decisions are to be valid then input and feed-forward from the peoples affected is an absolute must.
For example, Duncan Family Enterprises is a people-based NPO that provides support services to local community members who are impoverished. Until the people of Duncan Family Enterprises understand the people of need and their respective cultural and social heritages the service provided will be at best, half-vast. Without the vast data that could be gathered from a diverse workforce, there can be no vast intelligent service. To paraphrases my local mentor, Dr. Michael P. Bobic; don’t draw half-vast assumptions from half-vast data!
In summary the three positive points toward diversity in the workplace were: 1) Busted concepts of stereotype; 2) Workplace efficiency improvements; and 3) Two (or more) heads are better than one.
1. Initial costs and inefficiencies. I propose the following conceptual question; “Question, in an effort to achieve better diversity, is it acceptable for a HR team to advertise in publications that are specific toward a given culture?”
For example, it is reasonable that an employer reach out to men and women of African American heritage, who are fully qualified with Master or Doctoral credentials, by using avenues that are more associated to the African-American community that other groups; advertising via BET or other mostly African-American focused media.
It is logical that a company that pursues this effort toward diversity will incur a higher than normal advertising cost as well as a slower people hired for a position fill rate. This could likely cause significant inefficiencies and effectiveness.
I note that some people may see this extra advertising cost or inefficiencies or ineffectiveness’s as a negative. The costs are just one aspect of doing the right things, and, a step toward enhancing competitive advantage.
2. People conflicts. I note that Carr (2003), Kottack (2003), and Somers (2001) provided insight into the social, cultural, ethnic, and religious persuasions of each of the ethnic groups discussed. The differences noted lend to people conflicts that will need to be dealt with by leaders at every level within an organization. Some of the conflicts will be due to unrecognized and inaccurate stereotype associations. Other conflicts will results because of language, religious, economic, and even gender issues.
I recently dealt with a people conflict that was really quite innocent yet could have been avoided with minimal fore-thought on my part. I planned a recent sports appreciation banquet that included specification of the meal. If I had been thinking about diversity, I would not have mandated pork as the entrée. This snafu was simple enough yet a conflict not the less.
3. No Stakeholder Buy-In. I note references toward the importance of “…appropriate statistical controls…”. (Somers, 2003, p. 589) Though Somers was writing about study controls. The “…implementing policy changes based on observed differences…” thought carries over into implementing a strategic plan toward diversity.
As leadership within an organization moves toward diversity it will become imperative that everyone within the organization be moving in the same direction with thought and purpose. Unless all stakeholders know what the strategic plan is, the importance, the impact, the steps-of-application, and the end-results, there will be no success. As stated; “‘…quick fix’ interventions designed to produce ‘positive employee attitudes’ are not likely to serve their stated purpose.” (Somers, 2003, p. 590)
In summary the three negative points toward diversity in the workplace were: 1) Initial costs and inefficiencies; 2) People conflicts; and 3) No Stakeholder Buy-In.
Thanks for listening.
Dennis LeRoy (Sherlock) Duncan
Carr-Ruffino. (2003). Diversity in the Workplace. Capella University.
Duncan, D.L. (2006). Capella University. HS8300. Unit 01, Discussion 01.
Kottak, C.P. and Kozaitis, K. A. (2003) Diversity in the Workplace. Capella University.
Lester, L.P., Englin, D.L., & Howe, G.F. (2002). Designs in the Living; The Natural Limits to Biological Change, and Human Cloning: Playing God or Scientific Breakthrough? SimBioSys Publishing. Retrieved on August 01, 2006 from:
Somers, M.J., & Bimbaum, D. (2001). Racial differences in work attitudes: What you see depends on what you study. Journal of Business and Psychology, 15(4): 579-591.
29 Nov 2008, 3:15pm
Over the past few months I have been emphasizing ‘accuracy of language’ to our Emmanuel College (EC) Intramural’s Team Captains. Not so much as a listen to these words of wisdom, but making sure that we say what we mean, and that we mean what we say.
These student leaders, our Captains, are getting the message. They are now starting to select their language more carefully, to accurately articulate their true intentions. They are seeing that our customers are each other, and the students, faculty, and staff that we serve. They are also becoming more selective in their language when they are encouraging each other, and their team mates: in & out of the classroom; on & off of the field.
Below is an excerpt from my specific goal of this effort. In this sense, our enterprise is our EC Intramural’s Program. The original intent was to measure if we (EC Intramurals) were accommodating our community needs.
The first phase of any discussion regarding whether an enterprise is successful, effective, efficient, or not, must being with a clear and concise set of definitions that becomes the goal or standard, as appropriate, against which the measurement is based. The second phase must be in identifying possible measurements and then defining the actual measurement method that is most appropriate for the particular enterprise. This is truth regardless of profit or nonprofit status.
The American Heritage dictionary defines goal as: “1. A desired purpose; objective.” (p. 365)
The American Heritage defines standard as: “2. An acknowledged basis for comparing or measuring; criterion. 3. A degree or level of requirement, excellence, or attainment.” (p. 804)
The purpose here is to assure a complete understanding of the difference between a goal and a standard. A goal is where leaders ‘want’ the measurement to be. A standard is where the measurement ‘must’ be. For example, a ‘goal’ may exist that a counselor should work eight patients per day. However, today the counselor may be treating an especially bothered patient so they will need to drop down to six patients. If eight is the goal, no problem. However, if the ‘standard’ is eight, the counselor and their supervisor have a problem. The standard is not going to be met. The counselor could actually be exceptionally efficient and effective today yet not meet the standard! If the employment contract has a ‘goal’ then the counselor is okay. If the contract has a ‘standard’ then continued employment could be in jeopardy. The point being that it is critical to make sure that all stakeholders have a clear understanding of the difference between a ‘goal’ and a ‘standard’ when a measure of effectivity or efficiency is on-going.
According to the American Heritage, efficient is defined as: “1. Acting to produce an effect with a minimum of waste or effort. 2. Exhibiting a high ratio of output to input.” (p. 274)
The same dictionary defines effective as: “1. Having an intended or expected effect. 2. Producing a strong impression or response; striking. 3. Operative, in effect.” (p. 274)
All too frequently these two terms are used synonymously when, in-fact, their definitions are quite dissimilar. An enterprise may be effective and efficient, or one without the other. For example, a given organization may be able to produce X quantity of a particular product or service more efficiently yet not be as effective in producing the end-result, income, as another organization that produces the same quantity of an identical product or service. The polar opposite is also true. A given enterprise may be quite inefficient compared to their rival yet actually be more effective.
But this into a social service arena. Your enterprise, Counseling R Us, may be very effective in providing positive and effective counseling but is actually consuming more resources, actual dollars and counselor and counselee time, than your closet rival agency. Your rival may be more efficient in resource consumption but may produce results less effective than yours.
The American Heritage defines success as: “1. The achievement of something attempted. 2. The gaining of fame or prosperity. 3. One that succeeds.”
Given these same organizations, success is measured against whatever goal is pre-established. Both may be successful in their own right, yet both could be a dismal failure when it comes to efficiency and maybe even lacking in the effectiveness arena.
Now here’s the next point, any measure of any goal accomplishment must be established against a predetermined goal that is specifically unique to the organization, or sub-org, that is being evaluated. There is no one-size-fits-all, nor should any attempt be made to set such goals. Further, success can’t always be determined by comparing actual measurement results to the established ‘goal’ or ‘standard’.
Yes, there should be benchmarks within given specialties of production or goods or services rendered but these are only benchmarks. Excluding ethical behavior and codified requirements, no enterprise should be held to the same goal or standard as any other enterprise. There are too many dynamics that come into play. The point here is that leaders should ‘not’ get narrow-minded with tunnel-vision that they get locked into a mindset that neglects external factors.
Consider this same patient count example. The number of patients that a counselor may see on a daily basis for a given state may be benchmarked at eight. Now consider that Counseling R Us is in a neighborhood with a high delinquency, drug-dependency rate, there are no other comparable neighborhoods in your state, and the benchmark was established at the level of an entirely different cultural neighborhood. Should Counseling R Us be expected to counsel eight patients, or should you be able to set the goals as the neighborhood needs? Is the patient count a ‘goal’ or is it a ‘standard’?
Before trying to determine the ‘success’ of any given enterprise a realistic definition must be established that includes ‘goals’, ‘standards’, ‘efficiency’ and effectivity’, and then how the resulting measure should be applied to the ‘goal’ or ‘standard’ as appropriate. There are multiple statistical models available for selection when determining measurement devices.
Explore and experiment with several techniques before selecting a final measurement criterion. Find out what other like-mission enterprises are using and see if the proverbial glove fits. It would not be unreasonable to decide to use several at the same time. The best course of action is to find the measurements that best suits the enterprise and then adjust from there.
In the case review The Ladder and the Scale (1992) there are numerous references regarding the lack of already existing methods of measurement for the type of program the Project Match was working. This lack was a root cause of the tension between Herr and Tamayo.
Here’s a thought in closure.
Let’s say that you are the CEO for Counseling R Us and you have a realistic ‘goal’ of eight patients per day and a ‘standard’ of five patients per day, per counselor. In today’s process you see four counselees. However, the fourth one was suicidal and your intervention, though resource consuming, is absolutely brilliant! Let’s see now, you did not meet the goal or standard so you’re not efficient or effective in this measurement, and, based on the absolutes of the measurement, you are not successful.
However, your patient, that was suicidal, is doing better and will continue to improve and become a better member of society because of your effort. In my book, that is “SUCCESS” regardless of the measurement of efficiency or effectiveness.
Thanks for listening!
Dennis LeRoy Duncan
Revised 29 Nov 2008
The American Heritage Dictionary (4th ed.). (2001). New York, NY. Random House Inc.
The Ladder and the Scale: Commitment and Accountability at Project Match. 1992.
Kennedy School of Government Case Program. C16-92-1076.0
I never lamented about the vicissitudes of time, or complained of the turns of fortune, except on the occasion when I was barefooted and unable to procure slippers. But when I entered the great mosque of Kufah with a sore heart, and beheld a man without feet, I offered thanks to the bounty of God, consoled myself for my want of shoes and recited, “A roast fowl is to the sight of a satiated man, less valuable than a blade of fresh grass on the table; and to him who has no means nor power… a burnt turnip is a roasted fowl.”
Excerpt from the Gulistan, or “Rose Garden” by, Saʿdī
Saadi wrote that around 1259CE in Persia which is now now Iran.
Taking a few minutes to just sit quietly and ponder such ancient words of wisdom like this helps me see a much clearer picture of the state of humanity throughout the ages. Everyone should do it.
In my estimation, the ancient world was more civilized than we are now, even though we read the history of war and conquest, those wars were all fought via hand to hand combat, and simple weaponry like bows and arrows, and spears. In this respect, they were actually well contained.
Now, we have attained the ability to end all life on earth. On top of that, the seekers of knowledge are diminishing, while the seekers of chaos are growing exponentially. My reasoning for this surmounting phenomenon is that it has everything to do with both the dwindling of the ‘family unit’ while synchronously, the perpetuation of the misguided.
Douglas L. Duncan